There is nothing better than being a kid and having no agenda for three whole months. Having this experience in a small, rural town with a population of about 1,300 people makes it a little different. But it’s something I wish everyone could experience. At the time, it seemed less than glamorous, but now I wish I had those days back. I realize it forced me to create my own fun and allowed for some of my favorite childhood memories.
My experience living in my hometown in central Illinois is not something people fully understand until I explain it to them. It’s a comforting yet repetitive feeling to live in a place where you know everyone and everyone knows you. You go to school with the same people you were in diapers with and you’re with them until the day you graduate.
Growing up, I thought I had a lot to complain about. I felt there weren’t a lot of opportunities for me. I felt pretty isolated — which is understandable since doing almost anything required a half hour drive. I felt like the world was going on without me, and I wanted to be a part of it. Here, I felt like I couldn’t be.
I can’t deny that growing up in my town was different from a lot of people’s experiences, but I also can’t deny that I had a great childhood. I stayed in the same house and school system, I had the same friends all the way through. I was close to my relatives and got to spend a lot of time with them. I grew up in a place full of warm-hearted people who would drop everything to help you out, watch your kids, or run by your place to lend you a cup of sugar.
Without a doubt, my favorite memories that go along with this childhood come from the summers that seemed to drag on and on, summers that I mark my childhood by. Those three months each year were filled with endless fun, most of it occurring in my backyard with my older brother and our two neighbors who were around our same age.
All of them were older than me, so naturally I admired them and would do anything they told me to do. This led to some interesting situations and hilarious stories. There was always something fun we could do in our joined backyards, and I always made sure to join in on it. Together we created neighborhood baseball games, wrote a neighborhood newspaper, made a puddle in my front driveway become one of the most fun places to be, filmed home movies with my mom’s video camera that will go down in history, and invented other unusual activities such as playing snake doctor (just as it sounds).
For three months, my backyard was a magical place to be, and it was the only place I wanted to be. It didn’t matter what was beyond it, or what town my backyard was located in, because within these areas of green grass and swimming pools, a normal Tuesday in June or July became an adventure. Imagine if I still looked at every day as an adventure, if I woke up eager and excited, just because. I envy that ability we all have as a child, the sense of wonder we have towards life. Though spending a day making up games in my backyard and shooting home movies sounds more enjoyable than the online class I’m taking this summer, shouldn’t I be waking up and getting excited? Shouldn’t we all?
What did I lose from then until now that caused this change? In my opinion, it’s the loss of my own sense of creativity and imagination, qualities I had an abundance of during my childhood. The kind of childhood summers I enjoyed are the ones I hope my younger brothers and future generations of kids will have: ones that are unimpeded by video gaming and television marathons, smartphone using and YouTube watching. Ones where the only tool for creating a day that will later become a fond memory is a mind of imagination and great friends to share it with.
These summers, I believe, can act as an example for how I should live my life: excited, carefree, imaginative, enjoying my friends and family who surround me, living as if every day is an endless summer day where anything can happen. For that, I’m grateful for my small town upbringing and the imagination it created.
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