JIM CREES: Where are all the kids this summer?

So here’s the deal.

It’s summertime.

Officially.

Kids are out of school. It’s time for some fun.

But then …

I have a problem I’ve been thinking about for a couple weeks now. I can’t figure out what has happened to “summer” as I once knew it.

Now, I hate getting nostalgic. I actually am a pretty non-nostalgic kinda guy … really!

Still, I’m getting to be about THAT age that when I talk about “the good ol’ days” the younglings at the Pioneer roll their eyes and sigh.

(Heck. The other evening it was suggested some of the younger guys escort me to my car after work!)

Oh well.

But back to the point. (Focus, Crees. Focus.)

When I was a kid in Detroit, summer vacation actually began about two weeks before school let out. I, and other kindred spirits, would sit imprisoned in our seats at Stellwagon Elementary and stare out the window for hours on end until Mrs. Lang, Mrs. Goble, or Mrs. Kartack, would smack the hair off the back of my head with a swing that would make Roger Federer cringe.

(They still got away with smacking kids when I was in elementary school.)

Anyway … when school actually let out, it was with great glee and jubilation.

We were free. FREE.

Except for a ever present list of ‘chores’ at home.

Chores!!!

What the heck did Mother Crees think?

It’s not like we were preparing for some 4H showing, or heading off to the garage to milk a cow.

Chores??!!??

We had to wash the back stairs. Weed the “rock garden.” Clean here, mow there. Wax the dining room floor (for some odd reason, that became my specialty).

There was always something to do, but considering that whatever there was that needed to get done rarely, (if ever), got done correctly, there was also plenty of time to hang around outside.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my forte - hanging around.

I did it so well. I had a talent … nay, a vocation … for hanging around.

We all did.

It didn’t matter if my mom was at home or work, we were never in the house in the summer. NEVER.

And that is my problem. I can’t seem to even see kids outside doing something, anything, all summer long.

I once took a drive around town looking for kids to photograph playing catch or doing something.

They weren’t there.

Kids don’t seem to go outside anymore.

We not only didn’t want to be inside, but if my mom was home she generally thought there was some conspiracy afoot if we were even in the house.

When the “chores” were completed we were kicked OUT.

“Go out and do something!”

So we did.

We would come back for lunch which was most often a sandwich and Kool-Aid served on the back porch. Even for lunch there was no reason for us to be in the house.

When we were outside, we did whatever the heck we pleased … with limitations.

We knew there was a battalion-strength group of mothers out there just waiting to A) pounce on us while we were mid-transgression, and B) thrilled to be able to call another mother up and “squeal” on one of us kids.

I could be blocks away from my house and I’d suddenly hear some mother yell “I see you Jimmy Crees. I’m calling your mother.”

And more often than not, when I got home my mom would be waiting, ashen-faced - mortified that I had brought ignominy, dishonor, and indeed, eternal shame on the House of Crees.

I remember one time the cops brought me and a buddy home because were playing on the John Lodge Freeway. Yes. Playing on the freeway.

We’d start on the top of one embankment and run down, cross all four lanes of traffic, and run up the other side.

The guy who didn’t stop for passing cars won.

Pretty straightforward actually.

The cops didn’t think so.

My mother didn’t think so either … especially when the cops brought us home.

It was not pleasant.

My dad would come home from work and ask any of us who happened to be around, “You wanna have a catch?” And we’d go out front and play catch on the sidewalk.

Or we’d play pickle, or 500, or porch ball, or all kinds of games that kept us out of the house.

We even would read outside.

My next door neighbor and buddy Bob (now a doctor in Detroit) and I would go to the Jefferson Branch Library and check out five or six books, and we’d have a reading race to see who finished the most. Then we’d go back for more.

Or we’d walk to Balduck Park and watch guys shoot arrows at the range.

We were always busy, and ALWAYS outside.

I really wish kids today were outside more. Not for some grand philosophical reason, but rather because it really is so much fun.

Really.