Having lunch with my friend Riley, the conversation turns to summer plans. And I confess to being in the throes of the summer panic — that thing that hits me right before school gets out, where I wonder if I've planned enough activities, registered for enough camps, coordinated with enough neighbors and printed enough "things to do this summer," to keep everybody entertained for the next 11 weeks.
Riley laughs — not AT me, but WITH me — as he knows the drill. But like many of us fortysomethings, he remembers a much simpler time . . . .
A Charlotte, N.C., native, he recounts his days of summer when he was 11 — mom sending him outside to roam and explore. When every day was a new adventure. Some days it was collecting bottles for hours and then trading them in for a Snickers and a Mountain Dew at the Red Baron convenience store. Other days, it was riding bikes to the Eckerd's lunch counter, walking around the Record Bar and then checking out the pet store.
But most memorable was a game he made up with the neighborhood kids — Team Hide-And-Go-Seek — to win, you had to get your whole team back safely to the front steps of Jimmy Lee's house.
"I was only worried about three things that summer," he laughs. "My whole team making it back to Jimmy's steps, whether or not 'The Six Million Dollar Man' was on TV that night, and what time was supper. That was my stress."
I hear ya. I never missed a single episode of "The Bionic Woman." And we also customized hide-and-seek, with a game we called Visual Purple that we played in the dark. We'd learned what light does to the visual purple chemical in your eye, basically blinding you until your eyes adjust. So we made a game of making the seeker stare at a bright light, while everybody else hid. But you had to hide in plain sight. And then the blinded seeker stumbled around until they could see again.
There's nothing funnier than hiding in plain sight — trying to blend into a tree, with someone looking right at you, and they can't see you. That's how we always got found, we started laughing. And the seeker would put out their arms and just start running toward you. Such a blast.
You didn't have to register online or pay a deposit or pay anything at all. Your parents didn't have to research it, arrange a carpool, or ever even leave the house. They told us to go outside, and we were happy to do it. I was determined to hang upside down from the basketball goal and still not be found.
I'm totally teaching that game to my kids this summer. Maybe we'll even do it in teams. Is "The Bionic Woman" on Netflix?