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Childhood Summers

Publisher Tracy Patterson with her dog sitting in the desert resting up from a hike

Tracy Patterson

When I read this month’s Healthy Kids article, it gave me a strange feeling of sadness to think that we now have to perform analyses on how to let kids be kids. Have we really digressed that far from when I was young? I guess we have.
Back in the day, kids didn’t have the screen issues young people face now, except perhaps rickety old black and white TVs with rabbit ears that I, for one, mainly watched on Sunday nights—it was considered a treat! And things we took for granted—such as endless self-created outlets, mostly set in nature (which could be considered pretty much anywhere outside)—now appear to require studies, like it’s some new and foreign concept and not just part of growing up.
I think back to my childhood and the many hours spent with friends in one of our yards, in a close-by field or playing in the river. There were lots of kids on our street, and quite likely today we would be labeled with some kind of acronym because of our endless energy and unwillingness to be inside and stay still, even for dinner.
And talk about creative juices! When I was quite young, my friends and I would build jump courses in my front yard for our dogs. We would haul out all kinds of sticks, blocks and other paraphernalia to make an actual course of what we thought were beautiful jumps. It was kind of like an agility course, except that we had never heard of such a thing in the “formal” sense, and so this idea was completely our own creation. And of course, we jumped with our dogs to add to the fun—there was no sitting around for us!
We also loved to roam in the field at the end of our street. To us, it was the wilderness, with long grass and trees, and the deer, rabbits, birds and other critters who lived there. We’d spend hours stretching our creative minds in this little piece of nature, studying some insect, playing hide and seek, or just running wild, enjoying the freedom.
When I was a little older (still a young teenager), we’d head down to the river, which was close enough to walk to from our street. We’d bring our air mattresses and inner tubes, and the dogs of course, and spend the day floating down the river. We had to walk back up each time after floating down, which was lots of work, but we were always up for the task!
I have many fun stories about my childhood and the creative play that ensued every single day in some form or another. I’m sure that some of you reading can relate. Without the encumbrance of adults, we were able to play, create and form a bond with nature. I feel so extremely grateful I grew up at a time when I was free to have these experiences. They definitely helped me grow into an independent adult with a deep connection and appreciation for nature and a keen awareness of my place in it.