These days, children are coddled and protected as much as possible. Little wussies. Back when I was a child, we risked our lives day after day without even realizing it.
We were sent out to play with no "Handbook On How To Tell Good Strangers From Bad Strangers."
We rode bicycles with no helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, mouth guards, chin straps, neck rolls or NASA-engineered-full-body-custom-fit crash suits.
And our car! Good Lord. It's a miracle we made it to the grocery store and back without suffering a debilitating injury other than all those bruises on our arms from arguing over who would get to sit in the jump seats.
"Jump seats?" you ask with a raise of the eyebrows. Let me explain.
Several years after the famous World's Longest Road Trip To Florida, Mom and Dad bought a used Checker taxi cab.
"Why would they do that?" you ask, with your eyebrows raised even higher.
Well, why not? Checker cabs drive all day, every day, in all kinds of weather, full of all kinds of people. They are sturdy and reliable. And nobody else had one, so it was easy to spot our car in even the most crowded parking lot.
Before you jump to the conclusion that our family was strange (I would choose a more positive term such as 'eccentric' or 'charmingly quirky'), let me reassure you that our Checker had been repainted. So instead of looking like a bright yellow shoe box with black checks along the side, it looked like a drab gray shoe box. If they made Wellbutrin for cars, it probably could have used a couple.
It wasn't all that often that the entire family rode together. But every Sunday we would dress up in our little church dresses, with hats and gloves if it was Easter, and we would drive to the First Congregational Church. Heads would turn as we drove by, undoubtedly because of my lovely pink hat with the silky ribbon. Dad would park on Main Street outside of the church, and we would pile out one at a time, like a dignified Connecticut version of those circus clowns.
"But what about the jump seats?" you ask.
I almost forgot! Sorry. The back seat had a regular bench seat, like a normal car. But it also had two little metal jump seats that folded out of the floor. Unlike the rest of the Checker, the jump seats were anything but sturdy. They were like folding chairs made with toothpicks and glue. We loved em.
Just picture it:
Two little girls on the bench seat, bouncing up and down with glee. Two more on the jump seats, clutching the sides while rattling up and down, lurching dramatically onto the floor with every turn, then scrambling back onto the jump seats with lightning speed while the bench seat sisters leap up and dive towards the empty jump seats yelling "MY TURN!!!" at the top of their lungs.
... nostalgic sigh ... Yes, we all survived our childhood, even though we clearly did not have the sense to come in out of the rain, let alone wear seat belts or bicycle helmets. I think there must have been little guardian angels watching over us, raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads and perhaps taking a heavenly Wellbutrin from time to time.
Thanks, little angels. Job well done.