Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Tale of Two Summers

Go back in time with me to the olden days when summer was June, July, and August, kids caught fire flies while the adults talked ‘big talk’ on the porch, and my sister and I would find ourselves in our pajamas at the Dairy Queen on the whim of our parents as dusk overtook the day.

Each summer morning I would awaken to an already fiery sun around nine a.m. I would lie there awake and listen to the sounds around me. Sometimes I would identify the sounds of the washing machine, the slam of our wooden screen door, or my mother speaking on the telephone. I never dressed immediately. Instead I would get up and wander about the house looking out the front door and then moving towards the back of the house to check out what was going on. I’d say good morning to mom and then fix my breakfast. Sometimes it would be cinnamon toast or my personal favorite back then….Saltines spread with just a hint of butter and placed under the broiler. “Not too long or they’ll burn,” my mother would remind me.

Breakfast would be served in front of television that would blare The Price is Right, The $25,000 Dollar Pyramid, and Match Game (cartoons only played on Saturday morning back then). By the end of Match Game I knew it was 10:30. What? You didn’t tell time by what was on television? It was easier back then, you know. We only had three channels---four or five if the coat hanger with oddly formed clumps of aluminum foil attached to it was turned just right.

By 11:00 I was finally dressed and mounting my bike to survey my outside world to see if anything was amiss. My Dad ran a lumberyard and our house was in the middle of it. I had a large wonderful world to play in, imagine in and with all that extra lumber lying around I could concoct some hellacious ramps to take jumps on. I popped a pretty mean wheelie, too, with my monkey handlebars, banana shaped bike seat (white with psychedelic flowers) and optional sissy bar.

By late afternoon it would be H---O---T, hot, and my Sheltie dog, Lady, and I would opt for porch play. The house I grew up in was built in 1929 and had a very wide front porch that spanned the length of the front of the house. It was a wonderful outside room we used when it rained. Sometimes we used it late into the evening on summer nights. I’d play ‘house’ or ‘school’ for hours with Lady dutifully playing the role of ‘the baby’ or ‘the student’. Sometimes Lady would want her belly rubbed so I’d read aloud to her from books like Henry and Ribsey, Ramona Quimby, Stuart Little, or Homer Price. Lady would lay there all sprawled out listening to me occasionally wagging her tail in amusement.

Then the week would finally arrive for Vacation Bible School. I’d spend each morning for one week with my Sunday people. You know, all the folks I usually only saw on Sundays---the preacher, the choir director, my Sunday school teachers, and all the other people who benefited from my hugs. I was a huge hugger as a child and I made my rounds every Sunday. Vacation Bible School meant more time for hugs.

Vacation Bible School also meant learning more about Jesus, singing songs like Deep and Wide and crafts. There would be lots of glue, popsicle sticks, Bible verses and of course, pictures of Jesus that would be glued to construction paper, taken home, and placed on the fridge.

Well, things have changed though I’m not so sure for the better. It seems Vacation Bible School has become a frantic string of activities packed into four hours where kids are told, “Hurry up we need to get to devotional.” “You don’t have time to finish the craft----we’ll be late for music.”

Not only has education become scripted in many areas so has Vacation Bible School. There was a time when you could go to your home church and experience their bible school during June and in July attend the bible school for the church down the road. It would be entirely different. Most churches today (at least the Baptist ones I am most familiar with) purchase their Vacation Bible School materials from one vendor such as Lifeway. The program is theme-based with terrific materials for volunteers but wasn’t it working well the way it was? Does Vacation Bible School need a theme? Isn’t the Bible the only script we need? I'm not dissing the concept or the wonderful volunteers...just the progress.

Every year at the beginning of the school year I know who has attended Bible school. They wear their t-shirts proudly as well they should. This year the Lifeway theme is ‘Artic Edge’. The shirts are cute but in my day (and I’m borrowing from the movie “The Three Amigos” here) we didn’t need no stinkin’ t-shirts.”

I fear most of my students won’t have the same summer experiences I did. Most kids these days get up early, get dressed, and get carted off to daycare where they have no bikes to ride and play in an overused play yard surrounded by a fence. Imagination is almost non-existent and very few students return to school in August with a tan. Most can’t stand the heat. They beg to go in from recess after a full five minutes because, “It’s hot!” Most students are simply overwhelmed by too much technology and can’t quite figure out how to entertain each other when given the opportunity with the simple outdoors.

My daughter has been helping out along with other members of her youth group at Vacation Bible School this week. She reports her group of second graders is awfully clingy. They want to hug her all the time or constantly take up their time wanting to share little vignettes of their life. They move together as a group from activity to activity and are having problems staying together as a group. Each group has a banner that identifies their grade level that they carry around from station to station. It’s a cute idea but Daughter Dear says the kids fight over who gets to carry it. When someone is chosen the rest complain. I spoke to Daughter Dear about group management, but she told me that was left up to the group’s adult leader.

Yesterday the second grade group received two newbies. Yes, it seems even Vacation Bible School receives “transfers”. Anyway, these two newbies are apparently the Devil’s spawn. Daughter Dear reports one little Damien sd GD out loud for all to hear. Second grade, mind you.

I reminded Daughter Dear that the type of behavior she described is the premier reason why I don’t volunteer to help with Vacation Bible School. I’d end up disciplining some fellow church member’s sweet cherub and cause some type of major incident. I know my limitations.

Daughter Dear ended our conversation by properly surmising, “Well, if I was their mom I’d try to get away from them for four hours, too.... if I could. All I can do is try to love them while I have them.”

Well…apparently she does listen to me sometimes.

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Janet said...

The "breakfast was served in front of the television" line reminded me of how I ate my lunch to 21 Jump Street and/or Degrassi repeats. Good times.:)

Amerloc said...

I hated Saturdays. We'd be so excited to watch cartoons that we'd get up before they started and be stuck watching the "Test Pattern."

At least no one said anything stupid during that show.

EHT said...

It's amazing how the tv generation makes memory connections to television, but that was a big part of our day. My mom did limit my viewing, however. I spent more of my summer outside than in.

Ah, the test pattern. I remember that Amerloc. I got up too early occasisionally too. You had to time it just right. My all time favorite was the Bugs Bunny Hour but I also loved it when Channel 17 began playing old cartoons every morning.

Jennie W said...

Ah...what a great summer memory! My summers were much the same. This summer...well, right its house cleaning and then painting and then moving...on top of work and class...oh to me a kid again!