During those seven magical years my three brothers, The Sister, and I spent growing up on Flamingo, there isn’t much we didn’t do. At least that’s what I thought until recently.
Last weekend, one of our granddaughters accomplished a feat we never imagined doing. And if you had asked us, we would’ve laughed, saying such a thing was impossible. So what did she do? Well, if I tell you now, it will make for one short story. Let’s first look back on some of the things we did as kids.
If you’re a regular to this column, you already know about many of the adventures and misadventures from my youth. For a quick review, I’ve listed but a few of them below. But this story isn’t really about any of them, rather it’s about Never Have I Ever.
Riding trees. The game starts by climbing a hardwood tree about the diameter of your leg. Upon reaching the top, you grab hold and fling your legs out away from the tree as far as you can. As it bends over, you ride it slowly down to the ground, letting go of it only after directing the rebounding tree unexpectedly towards someone riding their tree down to the ground.
The danger was getting stuck way up high if the tree stopped bending because you mistakenly chose too large of a tree. Guess who chose too large of a tree. Dangling ten feet above the ground while your brothers throw pinecones at you is not ideal. Dropping and landing on one of your brothers to help break your fall is.
Next week are the Girly Girls’ birthdays. They will be eight and nine — the perfect ages to learn how to ride trees, and I’ll make sure all of them are the right size.
Tarzan vines. We used a muscadine vine to swing across Cripple Creek, but only halfway. Then it broke. We quickly replaced the vine with a rope. For the next seven years, we swung across (and did flips into) the bend of Cripple Creek we called Arctic Plunge. We did this without a care about snakes, leeches, or other creatures that might do us harm. Except for some bad cases of poison ivy, none of us ever got hurt.
During my morning walk yesterday, I noticed the neighbor has constructed a rope swing across the creek at the bottom of our neighborhood. Wonder if he’d let us use it this weekend? We have the Girly Girls, and it’s gonna be ninety degrees. A plunge in icy cold creek water would be a great way to cool off.
But don’t worry, Big Papa will go first to scare off any water snakes. And I’ve already walked the banks. They are safe. I didn’t see any poison ivy or leeches.
Lightning bug lanterns. Back on Flamingo during lightning bug season, it only took an hour for my three brothers and me to fill our jars, screw the metal lids down tight, and then punch air holes. Note to Reader: make sure the holes you punch are smaller than the fireflies or your jar will be empty in the morning, and your mom will be mad as our mom was as she spends an hour or two chasing flashing bugs around your room. But we didn’t just use our glowing jars as night lights in our room. If we had, we wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble.
My brother and I snuck out around midnight with our lightning bug lanterns. They made walking in the dark down Flamingo easy, but they also did something else. They made us easy-to-see targets by none other than Down the Street Bully Brad and his gang of three. The ensuing dirt clod, stick throwing, and rock battle in front of our house woke up our parents.
Our bug lanterns sure did shine a bright light on all of us. But our parents took a dim view of us kids being out of the house in the middle of the night.
June starts the lightning bug season, and I’ve already got the mason jars. The Girly Girls and I will fill the jars so they can use them as night lights in their bedroom. And if they stay up late one night, it will be okay if they take their bug lanterns and go out walking down the street like we did back on Flamingo.
But don’t worry. Big Papa here will go with them to keep them safe. Besides, I’m sure Down the Street Bully Brad doesn’t know where we live.
This are just a few of the adventures we had while growing up back on Flamingo. Looking back over that time, I thought we had done everything as kids, but I was wrong. Last weekend a picture was sent to me in a text. It was Little One holding not one, but three toads in her hands. I’ve only held one.
When we had the girls later that weekend, I congratulated her. Never have I ever held three frogs in my hands. But the story doesn’t end there. She said, “Papa, I held five toads in one hand yesterday.” I asked her why she didn’t use both hands. She replied, “I was steering the scooter with the other.”
Riding an electric scooter while holding five toads in one hand is a feat worthy of any kid who lived on Flamingo. Still, my curiosity got the best of me, so I had to ask, “How in the world did you hold five toads in one hand?” Little One’s answer still has me laughing.
“Papa, toads are stackable! But the bottom one did make a funny sound and got a little squished. We let them all go back into the lake.”
Stacking and holding five toad frogs in one hand is something never have I ever. But the Flamingo Street kid still in me really wants to give it a try.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]