We weren’t a gang, more like a clan of adventurers. We started each new summer morning eagerly seeking to fill our day with something new. We roamed the neighborhood on foot, by bike, on backs of friends or siblings. One of our favorite things to do was running along the shoreline of Flanders Bay and trying to find baby horseshoe crabs. We would corral them and pass with great reverence from hand to hand to touch and tickle and delight in the marvel that they are. The nearly translucent bodies would sparkle like gold and the tiny legs would dance along our arms until we ever so gently released them back into the tangy bay. We would then race to the end of the beach and jump off the bulkhead and into the swirling waters. We would laugh and swim and chicken fight until our lips and hair were caked with salt. We would towel off, head for the ever present cooler of sandwiches and provision for yet the next adventure of the day.
Some days, we headed off into the forest of freedom and searched for the artesian wells. We would separate into two groups and imagine we were hunters or army men or Lewis and Clark or anything else we could conjure for the moment. We picked berries and flowers and upon finding the ultimate prize of the crystal clear sweet waters, drank deeply and shared all that we had found. It might be the giant blueberry big as your thumb, a huge bunch of raspberries sweet and tart, a beautiful yellow leaf of undetermined origin (probably alien or at least Mayan) or a perfect divining stick that would surely lead us to our next great inspiration.
On cool days we would gather on Elm Street with mitts, an aluminum bat and some chalk to mark bases on the pavement. We would play until we got too hot and tired, a fight between brothers (or a sister) broke out or someone required the medical attention of Dr. Mom. A quick break for lemonade or Kool-Aid (our favorite was grape) and then off we would go, thick as thieves once more.
On other days we would meet in the backyard and dig and build and fortify dueling fortresses for our army men, aliens, cowboys, Indians, Barbie and whatever other figures we had on hand. We would often take a bucket and go down by the swamp to look for spring peepers to add to our game. We would jump around trying to trap a bunch of peepers between us and force them into the bucket. Some days we found dozens, other times, they were much smarter than us and we just ended up with bug bites. We would take our catch (if indeed there was one) and continue to plan and act out intricate missions and attacks for hours until the call of “dinner” dragged us from our daydreams into our homes.
But our day was not over; we would reconvene and then begin searching for mayonnaise and mason jars and whatever we could find in the various sheds and garages to begin our night mission. With screwdrivers and butter knives we poked holes in tops to fit our finds. Then with great anticipation we waited for the sun to sink and the evening light show to begin. First one, then two then ten would flicker off and on. Our quest for the mysterious and very tricky lightening bug began in earnest. We would race to catch and capture the most bugs to see whose jar was the brightest. We would pass jars from youngest to oldest and murmur and stare with delight and wonder at our new friends. Many secret meetings planning the next day’s activities were had by lightening bug light. Then sighing we would release our flaming friends. With a few yawns and a multitude of smiles we said goodnight and headed home. Off to bed and quick to sleep in order to awake with yet a new set of inventions and imaginings to begin yet again tomorrow.