Red Hills summer adventure is all around us
July 21st, 2015 by Red Hills
published in Tallahassee Democrat July 7, 2015
Nostalgia hits me hard every May with the first flickering of fireflies and the steady approach of the June solstice. Jubilant kids bid farewell to school routines while camps and backyard adventures beckon. Parents patch together their childcare and vacation plans and suddenly summer commences.
In our Red Hills Region, summer is plain hot and humid. Sweaty, sticky, grinning kids are a common sighting. I spot them in my neighborhood riding scooters and eating drippy popsicles. I see kids swinging colorful beach-towels and lunch totes on their way to day camp.
Hot, happy and carefree kids enjoying summer are popping up everywhere. Have you seen them? I hope so. And, I hope these gleeful youth sightings transport you back in the season’s magic time machine to your own best summertime adventures. It may have been in your own backyard like mine.
Faye Gregory, seemingly known to all as “Grandma Gregory,” ran my neighborhood summer camp. There were no fees, the enrollment process was informal and eligibility was lineage based. Faye’s home-based camp motto was, “you kids get outside and play.”
This fortunate group of grandchildren ran wild through the neighborhood shortly after our mothers headed off to work. A rag tag brood of elementary-age siblings and cousins rode bikes until tires flattened, built forts of scrap wood in broad crab-apple trees, and wandered acres of thick woods in search of worms, frogs and snakes.
At Camp Blood, Sweat and Tears we battled imaginary science fiction characters and looted invisible pirate ships of gold. We relocated (never stole) sheets from the laundry line and turned them into tent fortresses. We strapped on book bags of tools lifted from our grandfather’s shed as we stretched our minds and scrawny scraped-up, bug-bitten bodies towards grand backyard adventures. Ah, the good ole days of summer!
We returned to Grandma’s back porch base-camp for only three reasons in the order listed: food, injury or injustice. Because we were a pack of siblings and first cousins residing on the same road, an unsettled dispute would occasionally send one of us fleeing to our grandmother to tattle on the pack. Fortunately, our conflict resolutions skills were as keen as our imaginations. Somehow we worked out most of our childhood spats without matriarchal intervention.
We refueled midday with camp lunches at the kitchen table complete with purple Kool Aid and sugar wafers from the over sized cookie jar. We washed up, ate lunch and headed back outside for a few more hours until we spotted our mothers returning home. We bid farewell to our grandmother and hightailed it to our respective houses.
If we were extra lucky, we avoided soapy baths after dinner. Instead with mom’s approval, we returned to the great outdoors at dusk with empty mayonnaise jars topped with punctured lids to pluck fireflies from the sky well past dark.
Suggested guidelines for a memorable Red Hills backyard summer:
•Play, play, play. Our region is rich with trees. Go climb one.
•Drink ample homemade lemonade. Paint a cardboard sign and sell some to your neighbors.
•Hot? Fill some water balloons and turn on the lawn sprinkler. Jump in a local lake or spring.
•Learn about a new bug or plant or bird. Sprawl in the grass with a nature book. Use the Internet sparingly.
•Craft your own “greetings from the Red Hills” postcards and actually mail them to relatives or friends.
•Play tag or hide-and-seek at dusk. Get dirty. Rinse and repeat.
Georgia Ackerman is the mother of two teenagers who still like to climb trees and ride bikes. She works at Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy in Tallahassee.