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Bitter cold or sweltering heat? I don't know which is worse. My earliest memories of summer are of sweltering days and oppressive nights in an apartment with very little ventilation. I remember that my parents coped with the heat in creative ways. During the day my mom would let us shower in the middle of the afternoon. She would pour orange juice in the ice trays, letting it freeze into sunny cubes. Sucking on the cold sweet liquid and letting it drip down our chins was a delight. In the evenings, my father would carry my little yellow rocking chair up to the roof, and we would sit in the twilight hoping for a cool breeze. At night, my mother would come into our room with a wet washcloth and pat us down to keep her babies cool. When we were dry she would rub Johnson's baby powder on us. I still love that smell. On the weekends, we would sometimes get together with our relatives, who lived in the Bronx, and go to Pelham Bay for a picnic.
When I was eight, we moved into a well ventilated brick house in the Bronx. We had a backyard to play in, and for the first time, we had friends. I remember standing with arms wide-open enjoying the summer rain, running through the spray the thin spray of a hose, and drinking ice-water from the fridge. Ice-cream and popsicles could be purchased from an ice cream truck with a merry-go-round on the back. For a quarter we could get a ride and a treat or two. In the evening, we sat on our stoop and told ghost stories. This was problematic because we lived on the third floor, and for some reason, the hallway light never worked. As I ran up the stairs, I would imagine someone running behind me or trying to pull on my leg. It was always a relief to go inside and close the door behind me. That, however , did not deter me from listening to more ghost stories the following evening.
When I was 10, we moved to Astoria, Queens. I loved it there. I remember spending my summers engaged in all kinds of fun activities. When school was out, we had walk-in summer school. All we had to do to get in and participate in arts and craft activities, was sign in at the door. We did this once in a while as a last resort, but most of the time we were busy playing, stick ball, punch ball, jump rope, hop scotch, roller skating, bike riding and of course, going to Astoria Park pool. The back of our house faced the kiddy pool. My mother would let us go there with our friends, but we had a signal worked out so that we could be back home within a prescribed amount of time. Children did not have watches, cell phones or other electronic devices to keep track of the time, so our signal was our clothes line. When my mother hung a white sheet on the line, we knew our time was up, that dinner was ready, or our dad or Pop, as we called him back then, was on the way home.
Did any of you play any of these games? Ringolerio, Red light / Green Light? Do you remember any jump rope rhymes or clapping game rhymes?
The summer when I turned 11, girlfriends and I found a discarded Girl Scout Handbook. we spent a lot of time that summer pretending to be Girl Scouts. We diligently worked on the activities to earn badges. How many girls today would think that could be fun?