Sunday, September 1, 2013

Summertime memories.

Isn't it strange how we grow out of love for things and places we used to adore as children? Some of my fondest memories are about the fun filled summers I spent with my parents, brother and cousin when I was just a little boy. We didn't need much back then. And still we knew how to have fun. Be it at my grandparents' summer house with an orchard or my dad's work vacation spot in a place called Urle. The smell.  The energy. The joy of simply letting everything go, and just being kids, having fun. I'd say, it'd be unthinkable by today's standards. Imagine- no indoor restrooms. Showers in some designated common area. Electricity going out at least once a day. Only a black and white portable TV, with- God forbid- two channels. Part of it was that I was with older kids and I was the youngest of the group. Everything they were doing felt "cool" if you will and amazing. I used to idealize my cousin Gra┼╝yna. It doesn't take a lot to impress a five year old, but she had a dog, kept a diary and knew how to make everything into a game. My brother, seven years my senior also had his moments, although he was there to mostly tease me and go off on his little adventures. I used to love going to Urle when I was little. We'd stay in little wooden one-family houses in the middle of a forest.  Plenty of other kids to play with, although the trees that surrounded us looked pretty scary at night. We'd have figure out or own means of entertainment. There was only a shower/restroom building, a TV room and a small store on the premises. The nearest town was quite a walk away, I think something like an hour. We'd make the trip a few times a week, mostly for the legendary blueberry stuffed pastries. The ice cream was a little more of a risk- given the power outrages I remember the fear of salmonella being a real concern. There was a river not too far from the spot and I believe we'd justr drive there. My dad had a car and he was also an excellent swimmer. I think he taught how to every child in my family on both his and my mother's side. Part of it was, we had fun- because growing up in communist times we were used to not having much in the first place. And it was before the "age of technology" started for us. And I don't mean internet and cellphones and the constant need to be in touch, because that for us was close to two decades later. It was about three years before we got our first VCR and we adapted our TV to receive and display PAL signal. Two years, I'd guess before my brother for first exposed to a computer my uncle brought from work, a ZX Spectrum. Part of it was that the little house was full of people. But then I remember the 80's songs on the radio, waiting for our favorite shows to come on, like the Green Goose scary stories on weekends. I remember the "grown up" nightime films that at six I was determined to young to watch (and they were horrors) of which I was so scared that my parents would put chairs around my bed to block my view. Yet, the first inappropriate films I've seen was also in Urle, when one of our neighbors had everyone over for a viewing and then left the kids unattended. Nothing major. Just plenty of blood, gore, bad language and nudity. I remember vividly the group carrying me home on a spread sheet everyone was holding onto, although that night I was more scared of the Ninja that could jump in through the window at any time. But most of all it was my parents- who had the will and the energy to grab me under my arms and walk with me to get me some movement. When you have something to do, people to do it with and you're willing to make the best of it, there's nothing that can stop you from having the best summer ever.

Years later I'd visit some of the places I used to love, but then I'd already be in highschool. My parents wanted me to get out of town, experience some sun and fresh air, rather than stare at a monitor all day. They'd typically ship me off with some relative who had a young child or a grandchild they wanted to organize a quick summer for. Often, I didn't want to go, but had no say in the matter. My parents had a feeling I was getting a change of scenery. I felt I was being banished to a place without computers, cable or stable electricity for that matter. Wheelchairs and nature don't really mix. You can't roll through grass or sand. Most of the time, you'd put me in one spot and I just sit there. Who'd want to struggle with something so heavy? My uncles and aunts also were not up for doing anything fun, like moving around or exploring. They were most happy just tanning outside of the house, rarely moving a muscle. Sometimes reading some gossip press. That was their idea of relaxation and  fun, wasn't mine. The more I'd just eat and tan and read the more I felt powerless and confined to my chair. Same places, different memories. And I don't think anybody can truly understand while I was so unhappy in the places I once loved.

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