-Ready or not, here I come.
A heavy silence filled the air. Every tree had eyes, every blade of grass. He was walking lightly, snickering softly. I was hidden in plain sight, lying flat against a low wall, holding my breath. He was not looking at the ground. We typically hid behind cars, or trees. This was a gutsy hiding place. Kids started swarming the tree, running from their hiding places. I kept a low profile. I couldn’t stay too long because the others knew where I was “hiding” and could not be trusted to hold their tongue. My brother was excellent, because once a kid had vacated his hiding place, he would move into it. It had already been used up, and nobody would think of looking for him there. I did not have his patience. I leapt up and ran to the tree. Safe! I also told everybody where I was hiding because I thought it was so clever. Never mind that I could only use it once. If I had known Latin, I would have shouted, “Carpe Diem!”. As it was, I did cartwheels while we waited for the game to end one way or another. Our attention span was not the greatest but there was so much to do outside, on those cool summer days, near the end of the school year when we basically washed our desks, cleaned out the class, and hung around until we were officially off duty.
Those were the best days. We longed for summer vacation all year. The best days were just before they started, when the anticipation was at its highest, before disappointment set in because our friends left here or there with their families. Me and my best friend actually wrote down schedules: play this, go swimming, play that. We wanted to cram all the good things we had longed for. The schedule was another way to taste our freedom in advance. We followed it the day we did the schedule, and adapted it on the second day, forgot about it on the third and never looked back after that. We put up plays in the backyard, heckled the baseball teams that played in the park nearby, hung out with our friends listening to music streaming out of apartment windows. We lived and died on our bikes, the faithful companion of all our adventures.
Strawberry bushes lined the train tracks, and we filled our bathing caps to capacity. We were tanned within days. We were out in the sun, in the fields, in the trees, in the water, picking berries, picking fights, falling in love and falling down. I remember thinking “Don’t forget this. Those are the best days you will have,” already sad at the prospect of moving on, unable to taste them to their fullest, feeling the bitter aftertaste of those days as they were still unfolding. I would chide myself for doing so but could not silence the narrator’s voice, “Pay attention”.