Not to burst your bubble
Have you ever tried to teach someone how to blow a bubble?
Samantha and I got a bunch of Big League Chew down to Camden on a recent summer day, and I was reliving my own childhood by shoving a huge wad of grape shreds in my cheek. A minute later, a giant purple bubble exploded all over my face, making the kids laugh.
Samantha asked me how to blow a bubble.
I can fondly remember being younger than she is, sitting in the backseat of Uncle Joe's car, and Aunt Tammy teaching me to blow a gum bubble.
“First you have to chew the sugar out of it,” she said patiently. “Then you flatten it out with your tongue and then you blow it out.”
I remember we had the wrong kind of gum, the kind that comes in a stick. She made a little crackle of popping air bubbles and laughed like a kid.
To me, it was like magic. Now I'm on the other end of it.
Samantha is 7. She keeps trying, but she hasn't gotten it yet.
This is exactly the kind of things kids should be doing at the end of summer. Here we are in The Courier-Gazette today, running bus schedules. Union Fair is in full swing and we all know the day after it pulls out of town there's a chill in the air, frost on the ground, wood smoke above the houses and it's time once again for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Time to do kid stuff. Last chance.
When we drive by her school, Samantha screams and squeezes her eyes shut. “Don't look at it!” she says and laughs. She's like Harrison Ford and Karen Allen after the Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant, eyes aggressively shut. "It burns!" she says.
Any time the s-word (school) is used in our house she shouts, “Don't say it!”
I was the same way, growing up in Hampden. This time of year was all about my bike, a BMX-style red and silver model. Thinking of it, I can remember the zipping sound of the tires on the hot top coasting down the hill toward the VFW field. That was total freedom. There was nothing to worry about. No bills, no homework, no responsibilities. Just the occasional dog chasing you or riding through a cloud of bugs. Maybe taking that little jump by the baseball field too hard and skinning a knee.
The other kids and I would get money from somewhere and run up to the corner store. “No Loitering,” the sign warned. That was to deal with us, in there for 25 minutes picking out the candy, seeing what we had enough to buy. If I was rich, it was Big League Chew or Bubblicious. If I was poor, Bazooka Joe would do.
Shawn from across the street and I could go through a whole pack of gum in a couple hours, way too much in our mouths at any one time. You would blow a big bubble and then take it out of your mouth and look at it, an alien creature, body shaped like a flea. You did it too!
You would pop a big bubble and get purple gum all over your face. Then you would take the gum out of your mouth with your filthy kid fingers, stick it to your face to clean off the scraps and then keep chewing it. Good times.
Then it was back on the road, standing on the pedals, wind in your mullet. School was the last thing on your mind.
Meanwhile your parents were stuck in their hellish 30s, eating their boring bran and shredded wheat cereal before eight-hour shifts. You didn't know what they did all day, but you were pretty sure they weren't blowing massive Big League Chew bubbles in their bosses faces.
It was for them to figure out the back-to-school sales, the bus routes, the latest bizarre letter from the school riddled with vague political language about what to expect this next year.
They would drag in the door at night, tired, beaten.
“Look at the wicked scrape I got falling off my bike!” I would say, happy. “Yeah, sorry I ripped my jeans again.”
My parents didn't believe in Band-Aids. “Just air it out. That's good for it.”
Yeah, air and bits of dirt and lint. Just work that right into the congealing scabs!
Aside from Samantha's interest in blowing bubbles, her childhood is different from mine. Gen-Xers are the parents now and we're terrified to let our kids do all the stuff we used to do. My road's too busy for them to ride around unsupervised. When they do ride, they wear helmets and pads. They show me their cuts: “That's a good one,” I say, but I'm thinking, “Pathetic.”
I once fell so hard on my bike I broke the skin with the end of my kickstand.
So if you're a kid and you're reading this, get outside in the sun and make a break for it. It's a matter of days before you're stuck behind glass in a classroom somewhere, practicing the answers for the government standardized test. It will be hours of math and reading, math and reading.
See the world now.
And don't forget the gum.
Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, and two children. His house may be haunted. He's not sure. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.