Guest Posting By Chabakuk Elisha - Summer
Summer! Here, where I live in Brooklyn, it's the most peaceful the city ever gets. Once the school year ends, the mass exodus begins – as so many folks pack up and head to "the country" – and finally open up some parking spaces and elbow room for us full-time city dwellers. For me, this is a foreign concept (having not grown up in New York), and I have never been able to come up with a convincing rationale to pay rent in two locations, pack up, uproot myself and family, live separated from them 5 days a week (and then commute in heavy traffic to see them only on weekends), multiply and accrue significant additional expenses, as well as the added stress and logistical work, just for some exposure to grass, clean air and insects (yes, I love the sound of crickets, but still…). However, for those who grew up this way, it's just part of life.
Growing up "out of town," we had a different summertime. Once school was out, we enjoyed the neighborhood that we lived in all year. We enjoyed the bugs and crickets that were always with us. We rode our bikes until it got dark, and then we headed home (only to get yet another lecture about not coming home after dark and why he hadn't called to say we were ok and on our way – don't we know that our mothers worry?). Sure, there were day camps, but we never thought of going away for the summer – only the very rich did such things – and my fondest memories of summers past usually revolve around my father taking us "for a drive."
He would just drive. Sometimes there may have been an intended destination, sometimes we may have been on our way back from somewhere, but my father would drive around through back roads and past old houses and farms that I would imagine hadn't been seen in eons by virtually anyone other than the owners and mailman (ok, I'm not sure if even I really believed that, but for my imagination it was a preferable fantasy). We passed seemingly endless cornfields and broken down barns. We watched skeet shooters and horse riders. We stopped to pet a few cows and we gazed at an awe-inspiring tree or two or hundred. We searched for Indian tracks or at least arrow-heads and war paint. We even searched for Elves and Snarks (you'd have to check with my father for the specific definition of a "Snark"). It's been quite a while since those days, but I can't imagine a better way to enjoy the summer.
And I feel guilty. I don't know if I've ever done that with my own children. Maybe once, maybe twice… maybe. My younger children see a patch of trees and point excitedly: "A forest!" We took them to feed the ducks last week and I told them "That's a Mallard Duck," and they look at me blankly wondering what the heck I'm talking about. Now three of my older children are away in sleep away camp. They love it. There are real woods. There are rabbits, chickens and goats. Walking with my 10 year old son, he spots snakes here and there with an almost intuitive sense from 15 feet away. I thought about my neglect in providing them the drives my father gave me, and the more rural experience. Before they're all grown up, I should do something about it.