When I was a kid hot weather meant a lot. After breakfast we would usually go out and only come home for lunch. Lunch was a quick thing and we would go back to dinner. After supper it was the same; outside until it was too dark to do much.
It is not a rare story. Many of you can relate to this memory.
But are you like me, and remember when most of the older generation pulled out the lawn chairs and sat in their backyard after dinner? It seemed that the young parents were too busy or too tired to appear at night. But the older people who were empty nests were the ones who had time to get out and roam the neighborhood, maybe catch up and get some fresh air.
In our neighborhood we had a few older people. Sometimes the neighborhood children would perch on the steps of these people’s porches, listening to stories about their childhood; days they didn’t have air conditioning.
Back then, sitting in the yard at night was a way to cool off after chores or cooking warmed up by preparing dinner.
Many evenings our man with the snow cone would pass by in his converted three-wheeled vehicle, to see if a child ventured to the side of the street to hail him. We weren’t spoiled kids so neither of us had change every night. But it looked like our parents would spoil us at least once or twice a week, and we were all heading eagerly to greet the travel candy mobile enthusiastically.
Seniors in our neighborhood would be listening audiences to our own stories or an impromptu wiffle ball game in the front yard. Some of us could make a little change of snow cone by picking up sticks or odd jobs, and evening was usually the time when we were told about such job opportunities.
We would take to the streets to play ‘hot box’ or ride our bikes and do all kinds of amazing feats in front of our retired neighbors.
Until it started to get dark.
Things started to calm down a bit after the lightning appeared, and a few of us were walking around in someone’s footsteps making plans for the next day or talking about what was on TV this day. that night. We rarely went inside each other’s houses to hang out. It just wasn’t something we did and our parents disapproved of it.
When the lightning was at its peak, our neighbors folded up their chairs and greeted us. The rest of us would only linger a bit, then head inside to take a bath and settle in for the night.
I remember an exciting night when I was a little kid. The sky had looked a bit choppy before we got home for the night, and I remember some of the lawn keepers telling us we better put our bikes away and get in. There would be a storm coming, most likely.
Mom rushed us over for bath time, and my brother and I were pulling on our pajamas while the TV was broadcasting weather reports.
Soon the storm started, and there was hail and quite a bit of wind. Terrified at that age, I felt more secure in the middle of our house, sitting against the wall in our small hallway.
Like many summer storms, it moved quickly and didn’t last long. But as the last rages of the storm died down, everything went black. The electricity was cut off and a fly could be heard flying.
I’m pretty sure the power was off for an hour or more, but for us kids it was forever.
It was also quite exciting.
After the rain stopped, everyone ventured outside with flashlights to check for fallen limbs or frightened neighbors. Someone had a battery powered police scanner and generally knew what was going on. Word spread that a transformer had been hit and that we would likely be without power for much of the night.
For us kids it was strange and fun to be out “after bedtime” with all of our parents there too. I really don’t know why we pulled such a load out of it. We couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces and it was a weird and wonderful feeling.
Familiar voices drifted through the night and our flashlights lit up in their pajamas and tennis shoes.
But very soon we all said our good nights and headed back inside, ending our blackout adventure. Yet I remember lying on the bed next to the open window, listening to the stillness and lounging in the dark, knowing that everyone was there to take care of their neighbors and support each other. .
To feel safe and sound.
People don’t sit outside after supper anymore, or at least I don’t see them anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m one of those busy parents. Maybe it’s because I’m not looking closely enough.
Yes, I would come back to those days in a minute; if only to take the time to sit in the yard for a little while.