by Madeline Smith - ACE Certified Personal Trainer - Functional Fitness Training Director for Train with Dev LLC
Growing up in a small town in Iowa meant that, as kids, we had a lot of freedom to roam town. It was safe, summers were hot, and my dad worked from an office in our home. Mom always kicked us out of the house between 9am-6pm. Before we could drive this meant that our only mode of transportation was our own feet or the wheels on our bikes. We ran barefoot and half naked (in our swimsuits) all over the five square feet of town. Sometimes Mom would kick us out of the house before we could use the home phone to call our friends and see if they could hang out. Those days entailed walking all the way to the other side of town just to knock on the door of my friend’s empty house...or worse yet, make the great trek just to find out she was grounded for a week for something we did the week before. Then would begin the walk of shame back to my house thanking God that my friend’s mom hadn’t called my mom and gotten me grounded too.
This was the life of a twelve year old in that small town. My childhood crush lived down the road and our favorite thing to do was eat a bag of Fungions while listening to Led Zeppelin as we walked up to the ice cream shop. We would load our bellies full of Oreo malted shake then wash it down with a cream soda as we walked home. The ice cream shop was the most wonderful place in the world. The carpet was blue with orange and yellow space planets printed every three inches or so and the walls were littered with posters of The Beatles and I Spy images. They set out a jug of water with cups for us kids who would walk miles to get there and that was the sweetest water I can ever remember drinking.
Our crew of friends would always end up at “The Creek”. There were remnants of an old train accident and the city cemented over the tracks so it couldn’t happen again. The water of the creek rushed directly over the cement. This area we called, “The Flat”. There was a strip of concrete that ran over 100 feet long and about two inches of water continuously ran over it. The sun was warm enough that it grew a solid coat of slick moss. This made the perfect slip and slide. We would take turns running and diving onto our bellies, surfing on the moss for hours. We carved the names of our crushes with sticks in the moss and would come back a few days later to see a reply from another crew of kids replying by writing their crushes. We flirted and swore and blared music through the little speakers of our flip phones.
Best of all were the nights playing Kick The Can. Our neighborhood consisted of 15-20 kids between the ages of 3rd to 8th grade in the early 2000s. As soon as the street lights turned on kids came swarming out from their homes after having dinner with their families. Barefoot and wired we ran across the cool grass of the yards. We fought over who was “it”, hopped fences, trash talked behind the privacy fences, and ran away from the cops when their cars would patrol our neighborhood. We dodged, ducked, sprinted, raced and screamed well into the night. We knew all the best hiding places and our ground of play seemed to span for miles. When the game ended (usually because a fight would break out) Cale (my little brother) and I would plop our dirty, sweaty bodies on our beautiful cream colored couch and watch Fresh Prince of Bel Air until we fell asleep. Then I would carry him to bed around 2am and we would start it all over again the next day.
It is summer again but now I am all grown up with my own place in a new city. I have new friends now and we are scattered all over the state and country embarking in different stages of life. Life looks a lot different but some things stay the same. It is a thrill to enjoy the outdoors and walk around town whether for leisure or to run errands. Sometimes on cool summer nights as I am walking to and from a restaurant or the grocery store I am reminded of my childhood. Uneven sidewalks littered with deep orange from a dimming street light call me to sprint as if the tagger is chasing me in Kick the Can. The train blows its horn in the distance as I am reminded of the cool water of “The Flat” where the trains in Grimes once barreled down with cargo. The whisper of wind through the tops of trees takes me back to hiding in the backyards while we strategize our next move to win the game. Something about those nights makes me nostalgic about the red headed boy who introduced me to Led Zeppelin. They bring me to life as I reminisce the thrill of getting away with hopping a chain-link fence and sprinting through a yard before the neighbor’s dog could get us. As I return home and retire to bed I wonder if I’ve locked the door I am reminded of a simpler time when remembering to shut the back yard gate was the biggest responsibility I had.
I encourage you to take a summer evening walk. Enjoy solitude in the sanctuary of your mind or invite a friend along to tell stories about when you were a kid. What is different? What has remained the same? What childhood experiences have molded you into who you are today? Walk, rest, enjoy, and feel. Find the beauty around you.