What kid doesn’t look forward to summer? There’s so much trouble to get into! Thank the heavens that we have moms to protect us from ourselves even if they, from time to time, get a little overzealous.
Fireworks! I love them. Always did, always will. The “ooohs,” the “ahhhs.” The look of wonder on the kids’ faces. The inevitability of someone always exclaiming, “This must be the finale.” Then there are the reviews of the event. “Wow, that was way better than last year” or “That sucked!”
Now, while I love the official shows the various townships and Jersey Shore towns put on, it’s the unofficial firework parties that occur afterwards in the streets and backyards orchestrated by maniacs armed with with sparklers, cherry bombs and Roman candles that I particularly dig. Those guys are nuts!
But, as always, there’s mom to remind you that she heard of some poor schlub in Montana who has now been rendered blind for the rest of his life because he got too close to a M-80. To listen to our moms, you would think there’s an entire hospital in Voorhees stuffed to the brim with sunglass wearing kids who have been blinded by firecrackers who are now aspiring to be the next Stevie Wonder. Yet, I’ve never met one!
NO SWIMMING FOR 30 MINUTES AFTER EATING
While I admit this old wives’ tale has finally fallen by the wayside, I still think of my mother every time I go in the ocean after wolfing down an ice cream sandwich. (The most underrated and reliable snack ever.)
Here’s how it worked: For decades, moms had this insane notion in their heads that you could not go in the ocean or pool for at least 30 minutes after you ate. Over the years, I have heard various times that other mothers used, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, but the concept is still the same. Eat one tiny French fry and if you went in the water immediately afterwards, you would cramp up like a pretzel and drown.
Again, I have never heard of this happening to a single child, but that didn’t stop my mom from bringing a stopwatch to the beach.
“Mom, can I go back in the water?”
“Seven more minutes.”
BE HOME BEFORE THE STREETLIGHTS COME ON
At least this one makes sense. Let’s face it. Not much good happens after dark. That’s generally when the drinking and various illegal activities begin. But those kinds of shenanigans generally involve the older kids. The streetlight warning was for the younger kids.
And this one scared me the first time my mother said it to me.
“Mom, I’m going out to play some Wiffle ball.”
“OK, just make sure you’re home before the street lights come on.”
What would happen to me if I weren’t? Would I transform into Wolfman and chow down on my buddy Wiggles? Would I turn into a pillar of salt? Would I be arrested? Or worse yet, grounded?
What really got me, however, was how was I supposed to know for sure when those streetlights were going to go on? You would be in the middle of a terrific round of “Hide The Belt” (the most vicious kid game ever) and somehow you were supposed to know that you had five minutes before those dreaded lamps were gonna light up? No kid that I ever played with owned a watch (and iPhones weren’t invented yet), so even if you knew the lights came on every July night at 8:45 p.m., no one knew when it was 8:40.
So you would continue your game of stickball until the lights came on and then you would bolt home like a bat out of hell praying that maybe your mom was upstairs or in the basement and wouldn’t notice that you were a couple minutes late.
But of course your mom could be five houses down hanging with Mrs. Stenson and she would still know that you were late and still open a can of whoop-ass on you.
SPENDING TIME IN THE ARCADE
What was it with our moms’ obsession with pinball and other arcade games? She was always insisting that you were “wasting your time” and “throwing away your money” for every second you spent in an arcade. Didn’t she understand the eBay value of Chinese finger traps and spider-rings?! A spider-ring with a certificate of authenticity is going for over seven grand these days.
Seriously, there was, and still is, a stigma against pinball and video arcade games. Going to the movies, even if it was to see The Creature From the Black Lagoon Meets the Three Stooges was a perfectly fine way of killing a couple hours, and the price of admission and stale buttered popcorn.
But spend the same amount of dough playing skeeball or Street Fighter and your mom would flip out on you. What’s up with that? How is one a more “valuable” or “educational” way of killing a couple hours than the other?
YOU’RE NOT GOING OUT DRESSED LIKE THAT!
As a boy growing up, the only time my mother ever used this notorious line on me was if I was underdressed during winter. But I must have heard her use it on my sisters every other day during the summer. Because of the oppressive heat, halter-tops and short-shorts were naturally in order and they would just be the starting point. Then I got married and had two daughters of my own. Often I would see one of them getting ready to leave the house like they were heading towards a shift at Cheerleaders but I never had to worry about saying anything because they wouldn’t make it down the second floor steps without enduring the wrath of their mother.
Often just a glance (my wife has killer glances) or a single “No!” would be enough for them to change immediately. I have a hunch that “You’re not going out dressed like that” will hang around as long as the planet Earth is rotating.
So kids, just remember; if you want to have a good summer, your best bet is to sneak out of the house when you can and then lie about where you were at.
Boy, that’s great parental advice.
?Big Daddy and Joe Conklin will be bringing their TWO FUNNY PHILLY GUYS show to the Deauville Inn in Strathmere on Saturday, Aug. 15. For tickets go to BigDaddyGraham.com
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 4 (July, 2015).
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