Let Freedom Ring

Summer is getting the best of me. With open weeks, free of schedules and lunches to be packed, time is evaporating. Impromptu barbecues and sleepovers spent catching fire flies or playing flashlight tag, compete with fresh peaches and tomatoes for the highlights of the season. My 5 year old girls soccer team starts the “fall” season in less than six weeks. Soon I will be receiving emails for school supplies and carpools; I have not even read through the suggested first grade summer reading list. I had so many intentions. Kill the television. Create art with my kids. Show them yelling is not an effective form of communication for adults or children. Break the juice habit. Eat Vegan on Tuesdays. Hit tennis balls with the kids. Start training for that October 9 marathon I am running. All this to be done in the FREE time of summer. So how is it slipping away?

I am sitting alone at a friend’s house on Bald Head Island, NC. (I won’t bore you with the typical story of the 1/4 mile sprint to make the last ferry, throwing my kids on the boat 3 minutes prior to departure only to realize I left the toddler’s must-have sleeping toy in the backseat with her orange juice and fast food wrappers. The car will smell lovely if I can only remember where I parked it. Constant fodder for the blog…) My husband is at home with the dog, my younger two are asleep, and the oldest is with friends on a Loggerhead Sea Turtle walk, hoping to see some eggs hatch and witness the babies navigate from the shore to the sea. The adventure of being out until midnight is excitement enough, turtles or not. This island is majestic with endless pristine marsh lands and an aqua green ocean which looks more Caribbean than Atlantic. Our house has a lagoon running behind it and today we witnessed a 12 foot alligator float back and forth beneath the dock for 30 minutes. I threatened to turn it into shoes or a belt if he did not show me his pearly whites (from a very safe distance or course) but the alligator felt no need to take the bet. We did see him blink, watched his nostrils breath and then vanish underwater. The eeriest part of this  dinosaurs-era reptile  is how stealthily he appears and is gone again, like a perfect action verb when one is trying to write.

I meant to post an entry last week about freedom. About how I have always felt “closer” to July 4th because of my Dad’s service in the Navy. For me the holiday has always included a parade and picnic followed by fireworks and beer. Most Americans would concur. But being a child in the armed forces meant July 4 was also about those who weren’t together to celebrate because duty called somewhere else. When I think of my childhood, I always conjure up memories from the Fort Monmouth days, circa 77-79. I am not sure if it was my age or the freedom living on an army post provided, but I remember those days more intricately than last week. My soccer coach drove a lime green beetle and our jerseys were long-sleeve black polyester with some orange cursive-thing in the corner. The Dads called me wonder-woman since I was the only girl on the team and I would steal the ball from anyone because a 7 year old boy was not nearly as scary as my 11 year old brother. I ate a pomegranate for the first time there and got caught saying my first swear word (s*it) when I fell from the trapeze at the playground. (I lied about it when my brother ratted me out, throwing out many rhyming words ending in the it sound and thus compounding my punishment.) Jennifer-from-across-the-street‘s big brother Eddie taught tennis lessons and he had one ball with Mickey Mouse on it. He got so sick of us arguing over who got to pick the Mickey ball, Eddie hit it over the fence one day and it was gone. We had never seen anyone do something so frivolous or stupid in our lives. We built an igloo in the backyard during the blizzard of 79 and it lasted for 10 days. We took dry cleaning bags and placed them on the floor of the igloo and ate our lunch in there. I saw Annie on Broadway and The Rocketts at Radio City Music Hall. We went to China Town for Chinese New Year -before the gentrification of NYC.

All this is to say I believe when people feel free, they do more adventurous things and remember those events vividly. And the only way to feel free is to feel safe. This matters in physical location. It matters financially. It matters in love and other relationships. And it matters greatly in children. In order for kids to thrive, they have to know it is okay to fail and be different. We all have to know, someone who cares about us is watching and hoping and waiting to hear the news of the day, good or bad.

I have been floundering a bit lately with my kids. They seem whiney and timid and addicted to candy. They seem slothful and they aren’t prepubescent yet. And I think it’s my fault. Maybe I haven’t been rigid enough with the rules.  Maybe I haven’t been in tune with them enough-haven’t listened when they sent subtle signs. Maybe 3 really is too many. I certainly haven’t been patient enough-probably never will be. I wonder if they will ever feel free and safe like I did from ages 7 to 10. Is the world too crazy now? A bankrupt government, an unstable world order, constant digital input and news feeds, not to mention a diet contaminated with genetically modified corn and hormones and gigantic corporate greed fed by government farm subsidies. Or maybe this is what adult life was like for Mom and Dad when I was blissfully biking around the army base with Paulie Laflam, Amy Dewitt, and Susie Laturner. I can’t be sure. There was gasoline rationing and the Iran hostages and insane interest rates on home mortgages. Maybe I was just as whiney as my kids are being. It is hard to know how much is revisionist history or naive bliss. What I do know is we have 6 weeks left of summer, most of them in Vacationland, to do a better job. To help my kids feel safe. And let them be free.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cindi Bartol on July 8, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    once again – great! so fun to read the real incidents/memory times from your perspective as you weave them into the living of this day and
    time…let’s me journey back myself. and the girls will have their own perspective about the happenings of childhood when they are adults. Worry not – they are being given many places to explore who they are!


  2. I too have wondered many times if my parents were as worried and stressed about the world situation in the 70s and 80s as we are today.


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