I recently had an unexpected, but totally awesome, flashback to the 70s of my childhood. As most parents today know, unscheduled play time is mostly a thing of the past—our children go from supervised before and/or after school care, to team practices, to play dates vetted by both sets of parents based on a rigorous code of traits and belief systems more thorough than an eHarmony application. Gone are the days when you were simply turned out into the neighborhood to make your own fun once the bus dropped you off and you had changed into play clothes. You’d play with your neighborhood friends in a pack until, as dusk neared, various moms and dads would begin calling from front porches for the return of their offspring for dinner.
The other day, we pulled up to our house and saw a young girl standing next to her pretty pink bike, staring at us expectantly. Living where we do on Tybee, we don’t have a neighborhood per se, so we only see Jack’s friends on specific, pre-arranged occasions, and I knew we had nothing scheduled until karate practice in an hour and a half. As we exited the car with my usual reminders to Jack to take his book bag and the plethora of other items in his gravitational pull (snack wrappers, bottled water, books, legos, etc.) and going over the schedule of “free” time until karate, the heretofore unrecognized little girl called Jack’s name.
I have recently made peace with the fact that Jack has a whole school life outside of our home and knows many kids regardless of their grade, so I figured this was just another instance of excitement at seeing one’s school peer in their natural habitat, so to speak. Then the girl removed her helmet and walked towards us, saying, “Jack, it’s me, Jillian! From the lemonade stand? How are you?” Once a year, Jack sets up a lemonade stand as part of an area fundraiser for Mom’s Lemonade Fund, which benefits local women battling ovarian cancers. We know the families that founded the charity in their mothers’ honor, who just happen to have a passel of kids and cousins that descend on their various neighboring beach houses throughout the summer. Last May, the precocious Jillian proclaimed that instead of Jack and Jill’s lemonade stand, it would be Jill and Jack’s lemonade stand because 1) ladies first, and 2) she was cuter. They really do look like they could be brother and sister, not that I would torture my kids with match-y, cute-y names like Jack and Jill.
Jill said she was on Tybee for spring break and had been riding by when she saw our dog in the yard, a new addition to the family since the lemonade stand. “Would you like to meet him?” asked Jack gallantly. Even at just 7 years old, her charming reply was, “Well, I suppose I could come visit for a minute.” For the next hour, the kids ran around the yard, shrieking happily as only carefree children do, playing hide and go seek and tag with the dog. Their conversations were so endearing to me, ranging from simple commands of what to play next to the following commentary in its entirety:
Jill: Your garden is looking good!
Jack: Thanks! We planted corn, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, cantaloupe, watermelon, and….
Jill: You had me at watermelon! I LOVE watermelon! When it’s ripe, call me to come eat some!
Jack: We have watermelon in the house RIGHT NOW! Do you want some?
Jill: Yes, please!
So I went inside and cut up watermelon for them and when they were done, they washed their sticky hands and faces off with the hose, like I had so many times in the summers of my childhood.
Just for good measure, here is another picture of them playing together at the beach:
Post script: apparently, our house is just outside of the pre-approved free range bike zone for Jillian, so while she and Jack were playing, her aunt and uncle were driving around frantically looking for her until they saw her bike outside our house. This is why the impromptu fun of my 70s youth no longer works…