Dog Days of ‘59

The air was hot, even at sunrise. But that did not bother a six-year-old boy whose only goal in the life of summer’s end was to run, play kickball while running, and chase Lucky and Jet, the family dogs, while they were running. Running meant sweating, and with sweat came thirst. A dry mouth on a hot morning was best quenched with a garden hose. The water was tepid because Summer’s hard beating sunshine tried its best to melt the ground but only succeeded in warming the earth enough to heat the water in buried pipes, hence warm water from the garden hose for dousing face, head, and neck, as well as sipping. The routine of run-sip-run-sip-run continued throughout the morning. Eventually this early shift of activity ended.

No hollering or whistling was needed to call any boys home at midday. The Sun, straight up in the sky, was an ample signal that lunch was ready. “See ya later,” yelled while each boy ran to his own home, was the same as saying, “We’ll meet back here right after lunch and don’t forget the kickball.”

Lunch might have included some peas and mashed potatoes beside a serving of fried chicken or ham. Or there might have been sandwiches of thin-sliced roast beef or thick-sliced tomatoes. Whatever the eatin’ part was, the drinkin’ part was always a goblet of iced tea. In the South it was called sweet tea and it was wonderful. Drinking this ice-cold liquid was akin to absorbing the elixir of life. It was renewing, calming, and energizing, all at once. The first glass was always gulped to the point of inhaling, leading to the question, “Do we have some more?” This was always answered with, “Yes, my darling, we have all you want.”

The rounded bowl of the goblet held an ample supply of cold sweetness on the inside; and on the outside an equally plentiful accumulation of condensation droplets which, when the glass was tipped to take a drink, streaked into trickles guided by gravity along the bowl-shape, until a low point was reached. With nowhere to go, the trickles merged into gobs of condensation too heavy to remain on the glass. Whether adult or child, we were all affected. Those who were older and wiser placed napkins in their laps to catch chilly trickles streaming from tea glasses. The younger of us (and I’m talking about me), who had not learned the finesse of dinner table linen-ware, almost always finished with wet laps and shirts. When the gang rejoined for the afternoon round of play, and everybody had soaked pants-fronts, no one was accused of peeing himself because everyone understood the shared experience of a dripping glass of iced tea.

A lifetime of experience has taught that little boy, now grown, to keep a napkin on his lap, mainly because few people understand the true meaning of a water-stained crotch. He misses his childhood days of Summer, and his friends, and kickball, and Lucky and Jet most of all.  But there is no missing the next iteration of youthful fun.

Virtual-reality headsets, and the games played with them, compel the young ones in his care to duck and dodge, hop and skip, thrust, thrash and slash at whatever targets, attackers, monsters or minions roam and skulk through their field of view. They work up quite a sweat which never fails to trigger the question, “Do we have some iced tea?”

He answers, “Yes, my darlings, we have all you want.” -AB-

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