LETTERS FROM THE NEST: Summers and stickball

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Christie Elkins

Once upon a time—before the Internet, hand-held games, cell phones, cell phones with the Internet or cell phones with the Internet and games—there was this magical world right at our fingertips.
Not a virtual existence, but rather a real life experience.
That world is what we referred to as summer.
Some of my favorite memories of summer took place at my great grandmother’s home in Clinton. We would load up the silver Dodge Dynasty and take the scenic route through the grand metropolis of Lake City to visit her tiny home just around the corner from Hoskins Drug Store.
We would pile out of the car, and run as fast as our skinny, awkward legs would take us, and barrel down the hill in her backyard right next to the railroad tracks to commence a serious game of stickball. (Kids, the rules are simple: you need a ball or a crushed soda can and a stick. There is no skill set required, which is obvious since my cousins allowed me to participate).
We used spare tires or old shoes as the bases and the intense game began. We would pause only for a moment for lunch, which my great grandmother would whip up some of her famous pot roast and potatoes and onions, and we were allowed to slurp on as many canned sodas as possible.
It was divine.
On days when we were at a loss for a stick or makeshift ball, we turned to other forms of entertainment such as flattening pennies on the railroad tracks and strategically placing ketchup packets from fast foods restaurants on the small two lane road right in front of her home.
Needless to say, there were a few cars that were simply splattered with a thin paste of tomato and high fructose corn syrup.
When we heard tires squealing and angry shouts blaring over 90s rock anthems, we quickly retreated indoors to play a rousing game of Monopoly or Operation while the men of the house watched sports, over the mothers’ tired shouts of, “You need to stay IN or OUT!”
Memorial Day was always a huge event.
We would rise early, grab any last minute items at the Piggly Wiggly, and set forth on a 45-minute excursion on the winding roads through Briceville, heading to the top of a mountain where many of our family members were laid to rest.
The grass was tall and the cabins were in shambles, which made them perfect for hide and seek. None of the homes had indoor plumbing, so we were very familiar with outhouses and a JCPenney catalog. After a heaping helping of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, we began the one-mile trek in the blinding heat straight up a heavily rutted mountain road to reach the gravesite. We danced around the sound of cicadas and searched aimlessly for a headstone that simply read “LEG.”
Summer makes me breathe deep and long for the simpler moments childhood offered in a seemingly endless supply. It is time to take back summer. Break out the bug spray, find a good, solid stick, and get outside. Those emails and text messages can wait. Memories are begging to be made.