("Upstate," if you don't know, is anything north of New York City. I provide herein a MAP of the state to illustrate the vast scope of "upstate," for your reference. You may giggle at the incongruity at any time. )
We lived in Broome County. See it? Way down-upstate in the pretty turquiose bit?
Anyhow, as a kid, in the summer, I was not allowed to hang out inside all day long. Good heavens no! Mom had important things to do, like stay sane, so we were put out mid-morning and stayed out most of the day.
Sometimes I went to my friend Lori's house, becuase she had "Pong" and a remote for ther teevee (With a cord! Pretty cool!). Sometimes I went to Lisa's house, if she wasn't playing with someone else (Lisa wasn't good in groups of more than 2, and I was normally the one invited to leave if someone else came over. How's THAT for a real shot to the ego? Do ya think THAT had any long-lasting effects on my personality???).
Mostly, though, as far as I can recall, I went to the creek. There was almost always somebody at the creek, catching crayfish or making dams or building forts or just hanging out with their feet in the cool water. Creek kids were ready to play.
I had a little "pot" in the creekbed that I'd dug, and I'd put a wall of stones around it so that it was like a miniature swimming pool. The water would flow through, but the crustaceans and other things I caught and put into it could not get out. I'd lift large rocks and dip my hands in quickly to catch whatever was alive in the murky muddy water that had been stirred up, and run to my pool to dump in my unknown treasure. The squirming of the mystery creatures was delicious and ticklish against my palms. Once they were identified and catalogued, I'd "feed" my captives things I thought they would like, and when done for the day I'd try to let them go. Those that I couldn't re-catch and release were forced to find their own way out or die trying.
There was also a clay wall to the creek, a cutout into the hillside along which it ran. The clay was moist and white and slippery, and a big ball of it made a perfectly adequate cup once you left it in the sun to dry. With my friends I learned to make made pinch pots and coil pots and little figurines from the creek clay, and we rubbed it along our legs to cool them off and watched it as it dried and cracked, then peeled it off in squidgy little crusts, or we applied it to our faces in a misguided attempt at glamour.
The hours cruised along unnoticed as I lost myself in either solitude or comraderie with the others who were sharing the creek, of imagination or a completely blank mind, of action or total suspension thereof.
Such reverie. Such peace. Such freedom.
It was the place we went as children that was our own. Our wee refuge, our own world.
And now, there are houses on it, and no gang of children can invade its waters in the hot swell of an upstate summer.
The McMansions swallowed up our creek, but I like to think that sometimes the people who live near where we used to play can hear the ghostly shouts of children from a long time gone, echoing the joy and freedom of their sunny summer place.