I ran across an article on Scary Mommy recently called “Summer Will Never Be As Awesome As It Was In The 90s.” Of course, spending my teen years in the 90s, I immediately had to read it. You should, too. It’s frighteningly accurate, and it led me to think about my own summers as a kid in small-town Oklahoma.
When I was a short person growing up in Oakwood, “the creek” ran next to my house. Sometime during my formative years, the city came and filled in the creek and placed new sod. With the expanse of grass and my neighbor’s automatic sprinkler system, it was an ideal field for kickball or softball. The large concrete block that was installed next to the road (to cover the drainage ditch, I suppose) was perfect for a stage. It’s where we performed tricks for passing cars. It’s where my best friend, Lezly, tried (and failed) to teach me how to do the Roger Rabbit. (I still can’t.) It also served as our “base” for neighborhood games of Hide & Seek.
There were a couple of houses on the block with swimming pools, but somehow those were never the people we were close to, so we made do with the old standby Slip & Slide, and in later years, the Crocodile Mile (which so wasn’t worth the extra money). A couple of times we were dropped off at the public pool (R.I.P.) for an afternoon swim, but not frequently.
“Laying out” was a thing that I always wanted to do, and yet hated it. I’m not sure why I thought it would be fun, because Oklahoma in the summer is hotter than blazes. But I’d dutifully lather up with coconut sunscreen, spritz my locks with Sun-In, and crank the boom box to K-107. And then five minutes later, I’d be sweating in unmentionable places and go inside to play hours of Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog.
During the days, I’d sleep in until 10a (at the earliest) and go next door to my friend, Kristen’s, house. Her parents were at work, so we’d spend all day watching MTV and playing Super Mario 3. When I think of the summer I was 13, my brain automatically drags up the music videos for En Vogue’s My Lovin‘ and Under the Bridge by the RHCP. I have a very vivid memory of watching Anthony Kiedis run shirtless in that video. Oh, and who could forget the November Rain video with Stephanie Seymour’s amazing wedding dress? Kristen, Lezly, and I would snarf Ramen noodles and watch MTV for HOURS. Sometimes we’d ride our scooters up to 7-Eleven (now Quick & Easy) for Icees and candy.
One of my favorite “grown-up” things was when one of our moms would drop us off for the afternoon at NeMar for a shopping adventure. We’d hit up all the hot spots like The Bookstore & More, The Beat Goes On, and J&J Pharmacy, before stopping in at Goldie’s for French fries with gravy. And oh, the theater at NeMar. The single screen, the sticky floors, and the tiny ticket window. I clearly remember watching Karate Kid Part II and Terminator 2 there (truth be told, I think I saw T2 probably three times in that theater because…Eddie Furlong).
Some of the nostalgia from those summers remains, as the skating rink and Nemar are still around. Our movie theatre has relocated and upgraded, but the public pool and Goldie’s have both retired to the heavens along with Will Rogers and The Beat Goes On.
I’m also sad to report that the great grassy kickball lawn has been covered with a concrete ditch, so I wonder where Oakwood kids gather now? At least Quick & Easy still has Icees.