Thursday, July 1, 2010

MPT4--Second Grade and 4th of July Parties

This is the fourth in a series of 15 posts recounting my childhood. (To see parts 1 through 3, click the label "MPT" in my sidebar.) Today's topic is Second Grade. I actually remember less from 2nd grade than I do from 1st grade. My teacher was Mrs. Alborn (not sure I'm spelling that right) and I really liked her.

I hated reading out loud. Although I was a good reader, reading aloud was difficult for me (and I was shy to begin with), which is probably why I remember the day I was reading aloud and I misread/mispronounced "thousand." Oh, the embarassment!

I also have memories of learning to tell time. She would set up one of those learning clocks where you can move the hands. She would set a time and then sit in the back of the room and when you figured out what time it was, you would go over and whisper it into her ear. One by one, kids would get up until everyone in the class had figured it out and then she'd change the time and start over. I think it took me a while to get the hang of it, so I remember when it finally "clicked" and I was one of the first kids to get in line to whisper the answer.

Are you getting the feeling I was a competitive kid?! Sheesh, I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to just chill, life is not a competition, although I also know that my ambition and drive helped me accomplish a lot. Thankfully, later on I learned to compete with myself rather than others.

Since I don't have a lot of specific second grade memories and because we're coming up on Independence Day, I thought this would be a great time to share the 4th of July traditions of my childhood........

I've mentioned before that I lived in the same house all my life and we lived on a cul-de-sac with lots of other families with kids. It was a great place to grow up! Every 4th of July, my street had a block party. All the families contributed money and food. Even some families who had moved off of our street would come back every year for the party.

We kids would get up in the morning and (while the adults were getting the party ready) we'd decorate our bikes for the parade. We would put streamers through the spokes of our wheels, streamers from the handlebars, anything we could think of to fancy up our bikes. My sisters and the neighbor girls and I would gather on one driveway and work at the task very diligently. The parade was around noon, but it seemed like it never started on time, we would be so impatient. Finally, the neighbors would come out and say it was time and we'd take our bikes down to the end of the street. We'd line up and someone would blow a whistle or something and we'd set off down the street.

When we were little, it was like a slow parade. As we got older, we turned it into a race. We'd have our bathing suits under our clothes and we'd race down the street and then run to the pool (and get annoyed because it was taking our parents too long and we wanted to swim). Then as we were older (maybe high school) we embraced the parade idea again and though we were still on our bikes, we went slowly rather than racing.

After the race/parade, the party was in the backyard of our next door neighbors (the Roches), the only house on our block that had a pool. We kids spent most of the day in the pool. The men grilled burgers and maybe hot dogs. (My sisters didn't like hamburgers and they didn't like hot dogs that were grilled, so my mom would boil a bunch of hot dogs at our house and bring them over. I, however, loved burgers!)

The rest of the food was a potluck, but there were always baked beans and Mrs. Doering would usually make lemon squares, which I loved but my sisters didn't so I think my mom always contributed a dessert we liked. (Noticing a trend? We're all picky eaters.) Several desserts, lots of fruit, always watermelon. I loved having free rein to eat all day whatever I wanted, lots of desserts. And I remember the evolution of going from kids picnic table to regular table, from swimming all day to "laying out," from decorating bicycles to helping set up the party (blowing up balloons, and feeling so grown up when I could tie them off by myself).

And of course we subscribed to the theory that you shouldn't swim within half an hour of eating. Oh that half hour wait was agony to us kids!!!

The adults drank this cocktail called a scorpion. Every year, the same drink in the same enormous metal punch bowl. The grown-ups loved it and my sisters and I would usually take a sip each year (under my parents' supervision, of course) and think it tasted nasty and why would anyone drink that?!

Eventually, the party wound down in the evening. People went home and showered. When I was young, an former neighbor (Mr. Brenner) would bring fireworks. After it got dark, we'd all assemble outside by the circle and he (and some other dads) would put on a little fireworks display. Oh and sparklers, we loved sparklers! I think fireworks were illegal at the time, so sometimes a cop would show up and tell us to pack it in, but by then we were done anyway. In later years, he stopped coming to the parties, maybe someone else would have a few fireworks and maybe some sparklers, but when I was young, the fireworks were the coolest thing and we would be so impatient for it to get dark!

Also in the evening, some adults would play board games. One time, I was probably college age, I joined in Trivial Pursuit. I love Trivial Pursuit! I remember getting a question about how many witches were killed during the Salem Witch Trials and I tried hard to remember from history class: 12? 16? 21? Turns out the answer was "none" because no one was actually a witch. I thought that was a strange "trick" question for that game. Funny the things you remember!

Oh and the other fun thing about these parties--the photo albums. There would be a table of old photo albums that the Roches had made of all the previous 4th of July parties. We loved looking at old pictures of ourselves, and older pictures with hideous '70s fashions. (I think the party tradition started in the '60s--wow!) We'd ask our mom, "who is that little kid?" and it would be Jennifer or Jamie who were now teenagers or in college.

I loved my neighbors and I loved these parties! Really, some of the best memories from my childhood!

Sadly, the party tradition has ended. By the time I was in my 20s, there were fewer kids on the block and the Roches were too old to host, so no more parties. A few years ago, Mrs. Roche died. She was like a grandmother to all of us on my street. Very sad. Finally, my parents moved from our old house two years ago.

For more walks down memory lane, check out Mommy's Piggy Tales. Thanks for reading!


Crystal said...

What fun you had!! I think it is awesome the block parties lasted as long as they did, I wish I had lived in a neighborhood like that. We only had one or 2 close neighbors with kids, we sort of lived out in the 'boonies' as we always called it, very wooded area, so more privacy but less opportunity to get to know one another as well.
Thanks for sharing!

Melissa said...

I also hated reading outloud in class. I was so shy and always worried I was going to mispronounce a word! Your block parties sound awesome!! Thanks for sharing

thecoolmom said...

That sounds like so much fun. What a great sounding party tradition. I can't imagine growing up living in the same place for so long, but it sounds wonderful.

Sela said...

I loved living on a cul-de-sac too.
Sounds like it's time to start your own block party for the 4th :)

SpitFire said...

That sounds like a lot of fun! And good for you remembering so much. :) I'm sorry to say I still have a big competitive streak! I need to work on chilling sometimes, lol.