Saturday, August 21, 2004

Saturday morning


It's Saturday morning and I'm aggravated that I'm not thrilled by that fact.

Once upon a time, when I was a kid living in the old house I'm selling off now, Saturday morning was a treasure chest full of adventure. It was a time of extreme freedom -- the parents slept in or enjoyed close to absolute silence, refusing to allow the world to wake them for any outside nonsense. Brother was occupied with the cartoons on TV. It was understood by everyone that Saturday morning was MY TIME to escape, to slip out of the house silently, respectful of the home ritual.

Such a long time ago now, it seems. The sun crept into my bedroom windows, like other mornings, but on Saturday it was greeted with unusual enthusiasm. Before it rose above the level of the carport, I had slipped on my jeans, a shirt and my sneakers. I had tiptoed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and comb my hair, and if Mama was awake I gave her a kiss before running out the back door.

For years and years, Saturday morning meant dashing over to my best friend's back door. I timed it -- I managed to get it down to 43 seconds from my back door to hers. Out across the driveway, down to the corner and turning to cross the street. Sprint to the third house, rounding her drive, through the swinging wood gate and up the wood steps past the sleeping collie, Ranger. We could have cut 20 seconds off of that if the back gate to her yard had worked.

Her family had much the same ritual of silence on Saturday mornings -- certainly harder to achieve with her younger twin brothers. Both households were more than happy to see us from the back heading out the screen door.

Once we escaped the houses and were outside the perimeter (the "code of silence" extended to some unseen line -- we figured it was the elm tree on the other side of her neighbor's house) we were off and running to the Conoco gym, three or four blocks away.

If you've never seen the old Conoco gym, I can only describe it as a haven without compare for the kids of employees. There was an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool with a retractable sun roof and two diving boards, shower rooms and a gymnasium. Ralph usually sat in "The Cage," a tiny diagonal office of sorts that held wire baskets where folks could check in their clothes while they swam. Ralph also handled skate rental and candy sales, so we always kept him busy.

Saturday morning was time for us to skate. My friend always had her own pair of boot skates, a fact that I envied. I used the clamp-on skates for years. Eventually, she outgrew her white boot skates, and being the champion friend she is, passed them on to me. They were exactly my size! I thought I was in heaven the day she first let me wear them -- white leather boots with about a hundred holes and hooks to lace up, wheels with ball bearings and perhaps most important, toe stops!

She and I had spent so many Saturday mornings skating that we got to be really good. She was always a little better (I still say it's because she had boot skates all along, but no, that's not sour grapes AT ALL.) The skating time usually included an hour and a half of free skating, which meant all-out, fast-as-you-can, make-the-loop-around-the-gym skating. When we wanted to show off, we skated backwards. When we really wanted to show off, we would alternate, forward, backwards, forward.... one foot, spin.

After we'd worn a groove in the wood floor during free skate, Ralph or one of his minions would start the weekly contests. Everyone was lined up in little groups and challenged as a team to skate to the far end of the gym, do situps and skate back. The next challenge was to skate down, spin three times, skate back. Then skate down, make a box turn on one foot, skate back. Each challenge got a little harder until usually it was just the two of us competing.

When everyone else got bored, we'd move to the badminton court and use the painted border for even more intricate challenges.

Finally, at noon, Ralph would stop the record player and blow the whistle to tell us to clear out. It was time for him to run the big fluffy mop over the gym floor before the men came in to play volleyball or fill the pool tables way down at the far end.

We, of course, were not allowed to play pool until we were 15, but the day that happened, they could never get us off the tables. See, this was my chance to have an edge. I turned 15 in April and my friend couldn't play until July. Heh, heh.

Now, here I am, 49 years old, on a Saturday morning. No more rituals of silence. No one else left in the house to kiss goodbye as I dash out the door. No friend waiting for me, 43 seconds away. No more skating. No more competitions.

Instead, the lawnmower calls. I have to take advantage of a dry morning to work on the yard so I don't get a citation for maintaining a nuisance. Oh, I've already abated the tall grass complaint, but I'd like to go beyond that to make the yard look nice. I'll spend some time pulling Virginia Creeper off the house, then spraying the roots with Round-Up. This stuff is going to choke me someday, probably soon. It already managed to pull an old TV antenna off the house.

Wish I could figure out how to make it a contest. But I'm afraid it would win. It's had more practice.


Erudite Redneck said...

Not to rub it in, but I mowed the jungle out back this evening, and had a blast. It always makes me think of my hay-growin', cattle raisin', hay-feedin' daddy. I was COVERED with cut grass when I was done. Then, me and the dogs sat out back, smellin' the best smell -- new mown grass -- drinkin' beer, and readin' about the origins of Islam while She Who Is My Wife sat inside in the coolth, watchin' a chick flick. Then, we went and had catfish. It don't get much better than that -- at least without a Baby Bird flutterin' around the house. Hope yer day got better. :-)

Trixie said...

Well, I did go bowling tonight and had a blast. But I have to say, I think you just wrote the perfect reasons why marriage is a good thing. If you don't have a pal to go roller skating with, you should at least have someone who will mow the yard and go eat catfish with, right?

Erudite Redneck said...

Zactly. And now, I'm fixin' to go put down some fresh mulch in the front flower beds, and pull weeds and shoot a little Roundup around, while She Who Is My Wife sits in the coolth again and watched "Pride and Prejudice." A tad more beer will then be consumed, again with the dogs, before I fire up the grill to have lemon-pepper chicken breasts to have around the house, although She Who Is is fixin' some kind of concoction for supper tonight. ... This is my last day of relative freedom -- I mean, I only have to maintain my marriage, keep from gettin' fired, keep the dogs fed and the wolf beat back from the door. Tomorrow, I have to dall that PLUS try to make an A in The Reformation. My hairs will be gray by Christmas.

Trixie said...

Oh, I hate to break it to you, but your hairs would be gray by Christmas anyway. It's just one of those things that's gonna get you. Just think of it as the "anti-adolescence."

TECH said...

I remember Saturdays like that. When the whole day stretched in front of you. Hours and hours of time to be filled with whatever you could dream up. A day filled with busy play. We got a lot of living done before bedtime.

Sad how that changes, how the days speed past now. We're coming on the change of the seasons, and I'm not finished with summer yet.