Locked Screen Door

I’m not sure that Taylor Belle and Mason would ever leave the house if I didn’t make them. They seem content to stay inside and be on their computers, watch tv and play their video games. They don’t even do those things together. Taylor is camped out in her room upstairs and Mason takes over downstairs. And that makes me sad. It makes me feel like I am somehow failing. But it also makes what my mama did make sense.

I realize this makes me sound really old, but when I was growing up, we didn’t have computers, we only had three stations on the tv, and there were no video games. And yet, my mama apparently had the same problem getting my brothers and I out of the house. Mama used to make us go outside to play, and would lock the screen door so that we couldn’t come back inside until she was ready for us to come back in. We would stand at the screen door and whine and cry, wanting back inside. But she would simply ignore us and we would finally decide to go ahead and play. Smart mama.

There was honeysuckle growing on the back fence at one of the houses where we lived in Memphis. And the nectar was something we liked to suck out of the flower. But to get to the back fence, you had to go through the sweet gum ball tree area and it hurt my feet. So a lot of time was spent clearing the sweet gum balls to make a path to the honeysuckle. Well worth the effort.

There was a little girl who lived down the street from us. She was an only child and had a playhouse in her backyard. It had a little kitchen with toy appliances and a table and chairs. I thought it was the neatest thing ever! I played with her every chance I got, but mostly I played with my little brother. I adored him. We would play school and I would be the teacher. We rode bikes and built forts together. We caught fireflies and put them in mason jars. We dug in the dirt. We just played.

Living in Memphis, the mosquito truck would come by every so often during the summer months to fog for mosquitos. We would get so excited because all the neighborhood kids would follow the truck down the street running through the fog. It was like running through a cloud and I can still hear the laughter of all the kids. Although I am sure that I wouldn’t let my kids run through a chemical cloud, no one even thought about it being bad for us back then. And it was so much fun.

And then there was the ice cream truck. You could hear it’s music when it was still streets away, but that was good because it gave you enough time to run and ask for a dime to buy ice cream. And mama almost always said yes.

I was sitting on the couch writing this post when Taylor Belle and Mason got home from school today. They were excited to see me because I would usually still be at work. The first thing Mason did was turn on the tv. Out of habit. I sat through about thirty minutes of cartoons and realized that I had not written one word, so I asked Mason to turn off the tv. You would have thought that I asked him to give me all his blood. But he did it. He turned off the tv. I opened the windows to let in some fresh air and got back to writing while Mason played with Pokemon cards on the floor. The quietness drew Taylor Belle into the room and she sat on the couch beside me. As I continued writing, the sounds of children playing outside drifted into our apartment. In a matter of minutes, Mason was out of the door on his scooter, playing with the neighborhood kids. And that makes me happy. It’s so much better than him sitting in front of the tv. And I didn’t even have to lock the screen door.