As the days of summer go by, more and more the neighborhood kids are out and about on their bikes. I watch as they go up and down the street without the freedom to really go any further than that without their parents.
This makes me think of summer days when I was a child. For the most part, I grew up in a very small farming town. We lived there from the time I was 5 until I was fifteen. It was one of those towns were everyone knew everyone else's business, no matter how hard you tried to hide it. It was one of those towns where "bad" things did not happen. It was one of those towns where you didn't lock your car or house doors at night because there was no need. Blocks were 3 houses long and 2 houses wide and you called your neighbors "Mr." and Mrs." no matter how young or old they were.
Summers were the best. Surprisingly, even though we didn't have to be there, a lot of time was spent at the school grounds. (It was also one of those towns were there weren't a lot of places to hang out). The pool was another popular place. And the way we got there was on our bikes. We were always on our bikes. Most of the time, my brother and I just left a note for Dad saying "Out riding bikes." That was all he knew of our whereabouts when he came home from work, but he also knew which parents to call if we didn't return from bike riding in a timely fashion. He wasn't an irresponsible father, as he would be seen to be by today's standards. It was just that safe of a time period and that safe of a place that we were able to have that much freedom. I wouldn't trade it for the world and feel bad for my friends who grew up in big cities.
One summer, a bunch of us were bored. We were riding our bikes around aimlessly and somehow we came up with the idea we should play tag. On our bikes. It was a basic principle: one person was "It" and the rest of us scattered. The "It" person would have to ride around and the first person they came across was then "It". The game was basically tag meets hide and seek meets bike riding. Most of the time, we would pass each other calling out "who's it?" only to get an "I don't know!" in response. The best was if you were "It" getting to respond "You are!" and laugh as you rode away. Even better was coming across someone that wasn't playing and informing them they were "It," thereby forcing them into the game too since it was too hard to keep track of who was actually playing. The assumption became if you were a friend and on your bike, you were playing.
We played bike tag all summer with more friends joining in as the days went by. We played it the next summer too. We moved after that. I wonder if anyone kept it going? I sure hope so-I hope a new generation of kids are now playing a simple game that will one day be a cherished memory. I know if I lived there now with kids of my own, I would be very tempted to be out there playing with them.