Matt, a friend from way-back-when, was passing through town the other day and we found ourselves talking about the “old days.” I mean the OLD days. I am talking 3rd grade, 4th grade, you know, the “GOOD old days,” the days when we were growing up in a brand-new subdivision on what was then the outskirts of town. After Matt left, I continued to think about those days, those days of growing up in Ocean View.
Ocean view was a new subdivision when we moved in. We were all the first ones to live in the houses, we got to pick from five or six floor plans, we got to pick carpet color, we got to pick cabinet and appliances. It was a HUGE subdivision and was being built in stages. That meant PILES of building scraps. That meant the BEST forts, hidden deep in the woods. Boy’s forts and girls fort’s. We defended them vigorously, throwing rocks and sticks at boys who would try to break into our fort, and we got the same if we tried to break into theirs.
A new subdivision also meant exploring half-finished houses in the evenings and on the weekends. We ran around in them, played “house” in them, and camped out in them. I don’t think it ever crossed our parents mind to tell us they were off limits. It was the 60’s, not much was off limits, we were what you might call “free range” children. My cousin referred to it as “feral children” and I almost think that is a better fit.
Because we were on the outskirts of town, there was a small horse barn in easy bike-riding distance. Horses were a rare and special thing in Anchorage then. This particular barn was unmanned and easy to get into. I guess in hind sight, it was a clear case of breaking and entering, but those horses, ponies and donkey drew us like magnets. We did not do much when we got there, maybe give them a pilfered apple, or a sugar cube from our pockets. We named them and petted them and imagined they were ours. It could have been much worse!
We were on the edge of the woods and “frog-catching” was big sport! We would head out with our coffee cans to the creatively named, “Frog Pond One” or “Frog Pond Two” and set up camp. If it was spring, we brought home cans full of tadpoles, hoping to watch them evolve into frogs. They never did, just ended belly up in soupy water. The best thing is when you actually caught a frog! You paraded it home in your can or jar and set it on your dresser. It was a mystery the next morning to find it missing. Whether it was loose in your room, or if your mom set it free or even if your cat ate it, you never knew, it was back to the ponds for another.
Thank goodness for our bikes. We had a pretty wide radius to explore, and the graveyard was another draw. God-forgive-me we would slip under the fence and roam the grassy knolls, reading grave-stones and making up horrific stories. But here is the truth. One of the neighbor girls REALLY found a murdered woman in a car parked behind the graveyard. That stopped it for us.
So Matt came and had shish-ka-bob with Scott and I. And we reminisced a bit. I thought a bit, I thought about days that never seemed to end, of Potter’s Marsh, Kick-the-can and John’s Park. I thought about summer days, about growing up in Anchorage and about that sense of freedom and exploration that defines the childhood of my generation.