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The Spectator
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 by Ron Cruger
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2013 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
C
The Magic of being twelve
        The summer of my twelfth year was a time of transition, of exploring, of finding and enjoying being with friends. I would bid my family goodbye early each summer morning and hop on my bicycle to join with a small group of similar twelve year olds.
        Without plan, with little or no discussion, the three, four or five of us would choose a direction and peddle towards it. There was no agenda and no time limit set on our daily activities.
        The group shared little in common, one exception being that our parents trusted us to spend the daylight hours together without getting us – or them, in trouble. Nobody checked on us (cell phones hadn’t been invented yet). We were free to explore – to use our best judgements, to try, to succeed and to fail. I think we learned more from failing than any other method of our education.
        We would peddle our bicycles into the vast and rolling hills surrounding our small town. We called them the “bean fields,” because decades before, the founders of the area, the Spanish settlers who came to California, planted these same fields to grow their beans.
        Inglewood in those days was a trustful, friendly and an almost bucolic town.
        The heavy rains that winter brought didn’t infringe on our activities. We rode in driving rains, protected only by baseball caps and light jackets. There were only infrequent admonitions from our mothers, “Don’t get your hair wet, you’ll catch a cold.”
        We rejoiced during those days of heavy rains. We would find the low lying areas that flooded during downpours and we would ride our bicycles through the rising waters, the tires of our bicycles sloshing through the moisture, creating mini-waves that rolled over the submerged curbing. The challenge of the day was to see who could creative the larger waves. What fun we had, soaking wet and chilled. I don’t remember any of us becoming ill from becoming wet.
        During the warm summer days we would peddle through the bean fields as far as the peddling would take us. When the steepness of the hills became too acute and the rocks and boulders impeded our rides we would walk our bicycles to the crest of the hills, with no particular goal or area in mind. We would lay our bicycles down and sit together to watch the activities below. We could see the cars roll down La Brea Avenue, headed for the Baldwin Hills. Towards the west we could see the houses where we lived. We could see the playing fields of Highland Grammar School – our school. Further away was downtown Inglewood. We saw the Penney’s building, City Hall and the high school, which in a few years we would all be attending.
        We sat and talked about our bicycles, of our parents, of brothers, sisters. Mostly we talked of our favorite teams. Who were better, the old Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels or the Hollywood Stars? It was the days of great rivalry between the Army and Navy teams. We talked about All-Americans Blanchard and Davis. We spoke of our teachers, of whether or not we hated going to school. We spoke of what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was idle talk and yet it was important to us.
        None of us wore watches. Our times were daylight and evening. Our days began when the sun rose and ended when light faded.
        There were days when we would together ride downtown and peddle through the streets and alleys of the city. We knew the alleys, the loading docks, the employee entrances.
        These were days of freedom, of exploring, of finding out who we were and of getting to know each other. Although our goals during those days were only to enjoy ourselves we learned a lot about a lot.
        I can’t remember ever having money in my pocket. If we hungered we would peddle to a house where one of the mothers would make sandwiches for us. Then we would be back on our bicycles, back innocently roaming from one area to the next.
        There were days when we would bring our baseball gloves, balls and bats and play “over-the-line,” a game we could play with two or three to a side. No parents, no uniforms, no umpires, nobody watching us. We could hit and run, yell and laugh, argue and just revel in the moment. Success or loss was soon forgotten. We were twelve.
        A few times each summer we would ride to the streets surrounding Los Angeles International Airport. We would lay our bicycles down and then ourselves. There, on the long grass, lying on our backs, we would watch the jet-liners fly directly over us, seconds before their wheels touched the ground. The roar of the planes would vibrate the land we laid upon. We never thought that any of us would find ourselves as passengers on one of those gravity defying giant silver planes.
        Each day became a lifetime of its own. The rising sun brought us hopes for that day, not for days beyond. There were no worries of balancing checkbooks or mortgages or of crime or drug use or street gangs. We knew little of diets, of wars, of sibling rivalry, of kidnapping, or sex crimes.
        Our homes held stay-at-home mothers, fathers who went to work in the morning and came home at night. Our grandmothers lived with us. We had brothers and sisters. We knew our neighbors. We trusted them.
        We were twelve years old. We had our bicycles and freedom. We thought these days would last forever - that every summer would be as this one.
        The following summer we got together for our rides only once or twice a week. Soon junior high school became part of our lives, then, two summers passed and high school held our interests.
        Once in a while we would see each other in the halls of our high school. We had grown taller. We were engrossed in our studies. The thoughts of innocent fun became secondary. We would wave and nod to our former bicycle riding pals. We carried books and became serious about our studies. We stole glances at girls and thought about our futures - the freedom of that summer when were twelve blanched in our memories.
        We were learning the responsibilities of our age. We were learning to be adults and do the things adults do – and feel. We left behind much of the magic that came with being twelve years old.
        The memories of that summer when we were twelve years old have faded, only to partially return at irregular times through the years.
        I wish that one morning, when the sun rises, I could meet those same friends, hop on our bicycles and ride to the crest of the bean fields overlooking our homes and talk of baseball games and heroes and dreams. Once more to feel the freedom without care or worries - the freedom that we enjoyed that magic summer when we were twelve.