When I was a child and wanted to escape the world, I’d lie in the tall grass and watch the sky.

The sun was warm, the breeze soothing and the scent of a Maine summer hypnotic.

I’d make a cocoon in the grass where no one could find me. If I tired of observing clouds, I’d turn on my side and watch the ants and daddy long legs maneuver in their giant jungle.

Summer was heaven.

We traipsed through the woods looking for lady slippers and choke cherries, picked wild strawberries and lay in the moss next to streams, sipping the cool, clear water.

We built lean-tos, using fir branches and sticks, climbed birch trees and swung them to the ground, much like the boy in Robert Frost’s poem. We swam in rivers and ponds.

There wasn’t much to worry about in those 1960s summers.

We sprang out of bed with the sun, sprinted downstairs, filled our bellies with oatmeal and headed outdoors.

If it rained, we stayed inside and read books or took refuge in the barn where we climbed like monkeys up and down the haylofts, created secret clubs, told horror stories and made plans.

We didn’t know what it was like to be bored. There was too much to do. We collected beer and soda bottles along the road that people tossed from cars, hauled them in a wagon to the candy store and garnered enough red licorice, taffy, hot balls and bubblegum to keep us occupied for hours.

Our Skowhegan neighborhood had lots of flat fields perfect for playing baseball. We marked the bases with slats of wood, pooled our bats, balls and gloves, named captains and formed teams.

I ran like the wind, though my batting skills were less than stellar. We chanted and hollered, urging each other on, scraped our knees sliding into bases, crashed into each other and high-fived. Afterward, we dragged ourselves home, dirty, tired and ferociously hungry.

A trip to the ocean was a big deal on the Fourth of July. We went to bed early, too excited to sleep.

Late that night, my mother would make fried chicken in the electric skillet and bake chocolate-bit cookies, brownies and divinity fudge. Early on the Fourth, she made cream cheese and olive sandwiches and lemonade, packed the picnic basket and corralled us into the station wagon.

On what seemed like an endless drive to Pemaquid Beach, we asked, repeatedly, “Are we there yet?”

Our bodies turned blue from the cold ocean water. We dove for seaweed and shells, created sand castles, climbed the ragged rocks and inhaled the scent of roses that lined the beach. We devoured our lunch and lay down in the white sand, shivering and satiated.

Driving home, we slathered lotion on our sunburns, licked salt from our chapped lips and let the warm air from the car windows blow our hair dry. We were happy.

Some summer days, the ice cream man came by our house in his white truck. For 10 cents we could get an ice cream sandwich; for five, a Fudgesicle. If we bought a pine cone-shaped ice cream and found a red tip on the stick, we got another one free.

I don’t know what summers are like for kids nowadays, and they may deem ours were pretty dreadful, but I sure am glad I was born when I was. The thought of a 1960s summer attached to a cell phone gives me shivers.

The idea that 50 years later that charmed life is gone, never to return, makes me sad, not only for myself but for children who will never experience it.

We kids of the ’60s are lucky to have those memories to draw on when today’s onslaught of bad news seems too much to bear.

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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