Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The Summer Solstice always conjures up fanciful remembrances from my days of youth.
I recall the exuberance of the end of school and the advent of childhood carefree days of summer – evoking the lyrics of that old Nat “King” Cole song, Crazy, Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer — or something to that effect
I vividly remember a July-hot Southern summer afternoon following a typical Sunday morning of Sunday School, church services and the traditional Southern Sabbath dinner. It was always a lusty meal that included fried chicken, fresh sliced tomatoes, green beans and okra from the garden, biscuits and mashed potatoes with gravy – topped off with strawberry or peach shortcake made with hand-whipped cream skimmed from the top of the morning’s milk.
Life was always good on a Sunday like that one.
I went outside to savor the day and was resting on my back with my little arms nestled behind my neck in my little red wagon as I watched the summer clouds gathering like sheep across the sky — heralding the typical summer thunderstorm. As I often did, I was busy conjuring imagined facial images emerging from the cotton-candy clouds as the warm Southern breeze sifted across my small five-year-old body.
I don’t suppose I was ever as contented as I was at the moment. I savor it and try to recapture as much of it again and again whenever I can. In my naive young mind, I was well provided for — family and youthful perfection were at hand, God was in heaven and life was good!
Ah! If only we could live those delicious moments daily but those feelings are rare for most people these days. The feelings of innocence eventually leave — never to return — as maturity takes its heavy toll. Sad! I sometimes wonder if any kid today experiences this simple contentment.
Some days I would give a fortune if I could go back in time for one more short moment in my little red wagon.
Of course this was before the days of forcing non-stop activities upon little children.
Childhood of yesteryear could be savored without too much thought for tomorrow. Our parents knew that reality would come soon enough. Thoughts were confined to enjoying our childhood in an environment not marred by minute-to-minute violence on a screen — or in real life for that matter. Kids were carefree. Oh, sure! We had our chores and we were expected to pull our weight around the household but we were free to engage in the fantasies of childhood, without television, Internet, drugs, etc.
And it was a time before little lives were crammed with “schedules” bulging with Little League, sports camp, daycare or dancing lessons. If we had daycare in those days, it was an aunt or grandmother who looked after us. But time has marched on.
Are we allowing our kids today the opportunity to form moments of contentment that serve as a retreat and goal for the rest of their lives?
Today, children experience little solitude. They are rushed home from school, daycare, etc. to be showered with “quality time” from parents who consume every moment until bedtime in an attempt to meet the expectations of “good parenting”.
“Free Time” for both children and parents is too often almost non-existent.
I don’t blame the parents. I blame our society, which has fostered the economic necessity of a two-income family.
Many will claim that the life of today’s children is better than in the past. Are they certain? Sure, kids can program a TV recorder, power up an electronic game or log onto the Internet but can they dream? Will the future have any place for artists, writers, dreamers, etc. or will it be a generation of technophiles?
Can today’s children just relax? I don’t mean become a couch-potato, of course they have proven they can do that. I mean, can they unwind in a positive way? Can they dream? Can they create?
Computers are an important part of our future. Kids and their parents should learn all they can about what computers can do. But monkeys and robots can be trained to turn a bunch of dials and strike a multitude of keys. Kids need to explore how computers operate but more importantly they need to know how technology can be adapted to do for us — not to us. Creativity, to use another word. Most of us want to know how to tell time but care little for how a watch is constructed. Don’t get technique and creativity confused whenever you insist that the little ones learn technology.
Computers can be little more than a loom or a production-line vocational experience.
There are those who will decry my simplistic ideals for childhood. But, somehow, they worked for my generation.
Somewhere along our carefree way, we made the decision not to beat up the teacher, produce multitudes of out-of-wedlock children or shoot up the schoolhouse.
Those were kinder, gentler days. I miss them.
Oh To relive again that moment — that Sunday afternoon — in that little red wagon.
While John Brock is recuperating from eye surgery, we are publishing updated chapters from his book: “Southern Breezes Whistle Dixie.”
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.