So, I guess it’s summer. Hard to know when school has been out, for all practical purposes, since the middle of March.

I wonder what summer will look like amid the COVID Crisis of 2020.

For me it will look a heck of a lot like spring, unfortunately. I’ll be staring at the same walls I have been staring at all along. But I wasn’t really talking about my situation. When I think of summer, I think of lightning bugs and swimming pools and bare feet and dodging sandspurs and—well, when I think of summer, I think of childhood. Mine was magnificent. It was mostly spent outside and my uniform for June, July and August consisted of step-ins and a pair of shorts. No shirt, no shoes, no problem.

I mean none whatsoever.

Sometimes it rained. Those might have been the best days, because there was a big hill back behind the Presbyterian Church called, fittingly enough, Red Hill, because no grass ever graced that particular incline regardless of the season. It was compacted red clay and served as a path to the woods, down by the railroad tracks. The Yellow River was just beyond.

But when it rained hard, Red Hill became the Porterdale version of Aspen in the wintertime, because we were all going to grab some cardboard and do some serious sliding. I’m pretty sure nobody I knew had ever been on a pair of skis, and we had never heard of a waterslide, but we would take turns sliding down that muddy mountain all day long.

When we got tired of sliding, we would play King of the Hill. I don’t know how many collar bones were splintered on Red Hill, but it was probably a respectable number.

When we got home, we had the good sense to wash ourselves off, clothes and all, with the hose pipe. I don’t know how my mama got the mud out of my step-ins, but I guess she managed because I don’t ever remember wearing dingy drawers.

Of course, I didn’t spend all day every day outside. I remember reading during the summer. A lot. My daddy taught me how to read when I was about 4, and I was hooked for life. I remember sitting in his lap, before I could manage chapter books by myself, while he read the childhood classics to me.

“Heidi” was one of my favorites. It was about a little girl in the Swiss Alps whose Aunt Dete dropped her off to live with her grandfather, way up on a mountain. She played with the goats and the little boy, Peter, who watched the goats. They churned milk and ate cheese and hard bread. Well, you know the story of Heidi. If your daddy never read it to you, you probably saw the movie, with Shirley Temple.

Robin Hood was another book my daddy read me. Friar Tuck and Little John and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Then there was Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Arabian Nights, with Aladdin and his magic lamp. I wish every kid could have been as lucky as me.

When I got older and went to the library to pick out my own books in summertime, I remember reading a series by Curtis Bishop about Larry and his Little Leagues baseball team. Reading the books didn’t help me hit, so even though Larry led off and played shortstop, I was destined to bat ninth and play right field for my entire baseball career.

There was another series of books, however, called “We Were There,” and they put kids like me right in the middle of things — at the battle of Gettysburg and the Boston Tea Party and the Driving of the Golden Spike and the First Airplane Flight and every historic event in our nation’s history. I loved those stories, and I never got over loving history.

Maybe someday someone will write a kid’s book, “We Were There at the Pandemic of 2020.”

It will have to be someone other than me, though. I’m going to try to spend my summer reading to my grandchildren as much as possible — and maybe catching a few lightning bugs at night. Maybe I can find a swimming pool to take them to, and if it ever rains — well, maybe I’ll drive Henley out to Porterdale and let him slide down a red clay hill and see if my lovely wife, Lisa, can get the mud out of his under-drawers.

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Darrell Huckaby is an author in Rockdale County. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com.

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