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That Summer On the Edge Of Childhood

That was the year I carried a red purse filled with makeup in the basket of my Schwinn bicycle, and it was the last time I believed that summer was equal to all the other "school" seasons put together. It was my last childhood summer of swimming pools, library books, neighborhood games under the street lights, and firefly nights.

I pedaled everywhere that summer, but mostly to my best friend's house. Eileen lived a long city block away. It was walkable, but that was drudgery. Two or three good pumps of the pedals while standing up, and I could sit and coast down the street and up her driveway.

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"Eileen, Barbie's here!" I could hear her mother call as I backpedaled to put on the brakes.

The only boys in my life that year were in movie magazines or on record-album covers, but the crushes were intense.

Eileen and I even wrote to one teen actor, asking if we could just be in a crowd scene on his show, just to be near him. "You don't even have to pay us," we generously offered.

What was wonderful about that summer was the fact that we could fall in love with images of boys, but didn't have to deal with the ups and downs of relationships with them.

My big purchase that year was a portable radio that allowed us to keep in touch with "our songs" wherever we went. This was not a transistor, mind you, but a large yellow-plastic radio that ran on eight expensive batteries.

Eileen and I were cool. Records and the portable radio kept us in touch with what mattered.

Our only real challenge was to stay in the good graces of Betty Ann, who had the singular big pool in the neighborhood. If she decided for a time that we weren't her friends, we would be relegated to cool off in the six inches of water in our own backyard, blow-up pools.

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WE had but one big secret that summer. Every now and then we would regress into childhood and sit on our back porches with our dolls and their masses of clothes. We would watch cartoons and read comic books, and even color in coloring books, when no one was watching. As yet, we had not gotten summer jobs or even started baby-sitting. Our childhood was still alive and well, though usually well hidden.

I am probably at the age where I idolize my childhood, but each year the coming of the warm weather and the closing of school conjures up memories of that last carefree summer.

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