Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Those Were The Days

by Theresa H Hall (writer), East Coast USA, August 12, 2010

Credit: anonymos
Very close to how my bicycle looked.

"Mostly we were a community of Jewish or Catholic families. It's a fabulous combination (Old Testament and New Testament), the best of both worlds."

At most times I understand the world and then I'll wake up to a brand new day and see things differently. Everyone has their point of view and it can confuse my little world.

After a great night's sleep (which hasn't happened a lot this summer), I awoke with the same sense of adventure I used to have pretty much everyday as a kid enjoying the freedoms of the summer months. Back then I would sit down to a prepared breakfast, watch some television, take a bath (mostly to please my Mother), and don my shorts or bathing suit. I made sure I had a few bucks or change on me, my house key, and with teeth brushed, hair combed and pulled away from my face in a ponytail, I would smile at my beautiful Grandmother, we called her Mama, give her a kiss, hug, and tell her how much I loved her, on my way toward the door. When she asked me what I planned for the day, I would tell her where I was headed and when I would be back. She would smile and tell me to enjoy my day.

On my way down the hall I stopped by the fire hydrant and pulled it forward. Reaching behind it, I grabbed the pack of Marlboro cigarettes with the book of matches I had stuffed inside the cellophane wrapper. I put them on my person (wherever I wouldn't squish them), and once I was satisfied they were hidden I replaced the fire hydrant carefully and made my way to the elevator. If it wasn't moving to my floor fast enough (I could tell by the lighted numbers), I might take the stairs. Whenever I took the stairs I advanced on them with exuberance and abandon. I was quite strong and athletic for my small frame. I would go down the stairs as quickly as possible, even jumping a few at a time. You could hear me pounding down, down, down, until I reached the second floor. This floor was where the storage rooms were located for our apartment.

The second floor was pretty well-travelled as there were two main entrances, one for the middle of the building, and one at the end of the building. I saw some of my friends and we agreed to meet up later for a poolside lunch around 3 PM. I used my key to unlock the heavy metal door and went inside as I flipped on the light. Once inside I breathed in the dark, slightly dank musty air and made my way back to the cage where my beautiful bicycle was kept. My bicycle was my prized possession and I loved how she felt as I flew along for the rides we took. We had shared so many adventures. I pulled the bike out of the cage, locked the door and wheeled my bike out the storage room door. As I walked into the hallway guiding my bike, I remembered to reach back and catch the door so it wouldn't slam. I had already gotten into trouble over that. I was a sometimes noisy child but always a well-intended one.

We lived in a large apartment in Silver Spring, right across the Mason-Dixon Line, that separated Washington, DC from Maryland. We were two long blocks from that line of demarcation, and about a half-mile from where my best friend lived. Her name was Sandy and she was the next to the eldest of seven children. She and her family lived across the railroad tracks near our elementary school. It took me perhaps ten minutes to ride to her house, as I had to be careful crossing the busy street. A quick ride across the Spring Street bridge overpass, then only three blocks farther to peddle very quickly uphill, and steer my blue bike into her driveway.

I parked and climbed the rail-less stairs to the wooden front porch. I have always loved big front porches and some of the younger kids would be hanging out there. That day I saw they had a few kittens and Lady, their German Shepherd, barked at me as if she was telling me these kittens belonged to her. She was very frisky, with her tail wagging and a smile on her face. I allowed her to sniff my hand and she allowed me to gently pet her on the head.

Sandy came to the door and opened it so I could go inside. She wasn't allowed to leave until all of her chores had been done, so I helped her. We wanted to be on our way before it got too hot. Today we were going to double-up on my bicycle and travel back to the apartments, visit Sammy's to have a chocolate ice-cream soda, and then go to the Olympic-size pool to spend the afternoon splashing in the cool water, and play gin rummy as we dried off in the sun. Our towels were laid out side-by-side on the grassy area, alongside many other pool goers. The grass went around 4/5 of the pool, but for the deep end where the diving boards were located.

It was a very popular pool and there were seven high-rise buildings at Summit Hill Apartments, each boasting seven floors and many families who resided in them. "Mostly we were a community of Jewish or Catholic families. It's a fabulous combination (Old Testament and New Testament), the best of both worlds". Most everyone who was not at work during the day lived at the pool. Sandy was learning how to swim and catching on rather quickly. I was proud of the way she challenged herself, even when some of the younger children laughed to see her somewhat uncoordinated swim patterns. She even worked for an hour to perfect her poolside dive into the five-feet area. Before long we were sitting on the bottom of the pool having a tea party and then later on we played Marco-Polo, a water hide-and-seek game. Sandy was swimming very well after only two weeks and basking in her new-found freedom. We were so close that we shared everything.

We snuck out for a fifteen-minute break and entered one of the nearby buildings. We went into the stairwell and lit our cigarettes. We had learned to inhale and were fast becoming young addicts (I am now sorry to say), at eleven and a-half and twelve and a-half years of age (she was eleven months and four days older then I), we were experiencing what we felt was grown-up and were thrilled doing it. Back at the pool, we met up with some of our school mates and ate delicious hot dogs, potato chips and drank Pepsi-Colas. Those times we had enough money we might add on an ice-cream or Popsicle on afternoons the Good Humor truck came by.

We spent hours just like these and had loads of fun. We had so much freedom. We were safe, happy and we blossomed over our summer vacations.

I shook-off my memories to face my day ... not a bicycle nor a pool anywhere on my "To-Do" list.

About the Writer

Theresa H Hall is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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6 comments on Those Were The Days

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By Theresa H Hall on August 12, 2010 at 02:07 pm

Julian, Melody and Cher,

These memories that I have so cleverly stored in the treasure box of my mind, have allowed me to hold on to what is really precious about living. I lead a small but valuable life.

Thank you for your comments. :-)

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By Theresa H Hall on August 12, 2010 at 05:51 pm

Melody ... are you praying ... again? Amen! :-)

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By the expat returned on August 12, 2010 at 06:02 pm

Love the story! Let's meet up and ride bikes like back in the day.

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By Lynda Lehmann on August 12, 2010 at 08:24 pm

Theresa, this is so well written and nostalgic, and describes perfectly well the joys and freedoms of my own early-teen years. Those were the days. The Beach Boys and the Supremes and the Beatles and the British Invasion, and tanned bodies luxuriating around the blue reflective water of the community pool. Nothing to do but look at all the cute guys and wonder if one's legs were well enough shaved.

Of course there was the Cold War to worry about and later on, Viet Nam, but those threats never intruded on the fenced-in green surrounding our neighborhood pool.

Thanks for the great writing and the memories, Theresa.

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By Theresa H Hall on August 12, 2010 at 08:40 pm

expat returned Those were some fun bike rides, were they not? I sold my bike to Mary back in the early 1990's. It's still in Illinois in the garage.

Lynda, So glad to bring these memories to you. Life was simpler and sometimes I think we have way too many choices. Hard to decide what makes us happy. Had we had all the computer games we wouldn't have had our healthy imaginations.

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By Frank - icare2be on May 26, 2011 at 05:41 pm

Theresa, Your story brings back fond memories and a bit of guilt. First puff 9 1/2 years walking to school. By 16 I had to switch to a pipe that was hid under the porch with the tobacco in a Pince Albert tin. It was cheaper to smoke than cigarettes at 25 cents a pack. When the pipe stem broke I used the stub and bowl until I could get money saved for a new pipe.

Now, I am an ex-smoker. Unlike others I still enjoy the smell of second hand smoke. In fact a good pipe tobacco will make my mouth water and memories come flooding back.

Thanks for the memories..

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