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Summer Adventures - Bury My Cart at Wounded Sole

“Oh the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!”  How my perspective of those special months of June, July and August changed as I aged. 

For me now, as my days of careless youth have ended and, since I am not a fan of the heat; summer brings its take your breath away humidity, the scorching heat that makes you sweat everywhere, the need to be in air conditioning from house to car, the need to be near a fan for air movement, the fighting with bugs, mosquitoes, spiders, ticks, Lyme’s disease, West Nile virus and any other tropical disease that breeds in heat.

Now living on property surrounded by woods there is the pesky wildlife to contend with too. A groundhog that thinks our herbs and flowers on the deck are a salad bar placed conveniently for his nutrition. That the wood door trim of our deck door is a place to sharpen his not so little teeth. 

The deer that like to eat the foliage off the trees we have so nicely landscaped.  The skunks that like to come out in the evening and meander around the garage daring you to come out for a spray, or the black snakes that like to curl up and warm themselves in the sun on the front concrete patio.

This is my adult experience of summer in our new house. The increased utility costs for running the AC for months, and warding off the attack of the killer summer elements. It is hard to relax on a Saturday afternoon when you need an air- conditioned HAZMAT suit to lounge on the deck and you have to share your space with a fat groundhog that likes to sun itself on the cover of your hot tub.

The only positive aspect is that as we age time passes much more quickly, so summer seems to go by a lot faster than the summer’s of my youth. I don’t want to wish my days away, just the hot, humid, sticky ones. But as I lounge under the ceiling fan with the AC cranked to 68 degrees, let me reflect back to my summers as a child and the different experience it was.  

I couldn’t wait for the school season to end and for summer vacation to begin. It seemed like an endless period of days and weeks that spread out before me, as the last day of school approached in June. It always seemed like it would be like ages until Labor Day and September would arrive.

By the time my vacation ended I would be a year older (my birthday is in August), in a new grade – a different person. Such an exciting time it would be; what adventures I would have, and no homework.  The last day of school was almost too much to bear. It was the second most exciting occasion after Christmas.  When the school bell sounded on the final day, I shot out of the classroom like I was fleeing the Zombie Apocalypse - rushing headlong into the mystery of summer.

Long before the Summer Solstice arrived, my school clothes were stored away. The official outfit of summer – shorts, sneakers and a polo shirt were in place and, I was ready for endless hours of play with my friends in the neighborhood, a ride on my bike, sailing down the playground sliding board on wax paper, a trip to Woolworth’s or W.T. Grant to buy a toy, etc.

A special part of the summer was also getting to spend overnight visits to my cousins’ houses.  I looked forward to those times, because it gave me a greater sense of freedom and an escape from the much more restrictive world my mother imposed.  

 My mother was very protective of my sister and I growing up. We were guarded in the sense that Hannibal Lecter was guarded in the Baltimore Prison for the Criminally Insane.  I guess you could say, “under a protective watch.”

My mother was very much a homebody, so she didn’t have that sense of adventure or the need to experience new things that most of my friends’ parents had. She was much more Mamie Eisenhower than Auntie Mame.   

The chance to go visit a cousin for a few days and leave the watchful eye of mom was a wonderful opportunity. It gave me the chance to do things I couldn’t do at home and to become more independent.

I always loved going to stay with my cousin Shawna, because she lived in New Castle, Delaware, so that meant I could actually cross state lines for my visit.  My cousin was always artistic, creative and fun to be around. She had a great personality, cool friends and a piano. 

My Aunt Margie was the sweetest woman, who allowed Shawna much more freedom than I was allowed, and since Shawna was several years older than me, I always felt a certain sense of bohemian adventure when I was in her presence. 

These were always character-building adventures. There were chances to experience something new like trying Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup in milk (we were a Bosco family), going to a drive-in movie and seeing the Beatles in Help!, trying Tomato Pie (what pizza with no cheese?), and the greatest of all childhood things - walking barefoot. 

I was an allergy child, so I almost grew up in a plastic bubble. I guess that does explain some of my mom’s protective radar, but I was a child that just wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to get down in the dirt and feel nature under my feet. We weren’t allowed to leave the house shoeless. “Oh my god! You might step on something, cut your foot, get a disease, cover your feet in dirt or bring home a pandemic!” 

For me stripping off my shoes and socks would be like streaking. I had only known the confines of Hush Puppies or Buster Brown. My feet naked in the great outdoors would be exhilarating, and a statement against the oppressive nature of over-protective parenting – minus the fact that my mom wouldn’t find out since I was in another state and no one was telling.

Shawna loved to spend the summer days barefoot, freely roaming her neighborhood.  I remember my first day of my visit. I had to take it slow in the shoeless world – “one small step for Vince, one giant step for 'momma’s boys' worldwide.” I remember passing my sneakers by as a mere remembrance of the official rules of footwear. As I headed to the great outdoors, I was stepping on alien terrain. 

The grass felt cool and wonderful on the soles of my feet.  I was a rebel, an adventurer, a peace symbol-wearing hippie at Woodstock, and I was in love with the moment. The moment passed quickly as I followed Shawna off the grass onto the street.  

 My virgin feet, as tender as milk-feed veal, did not greet the harder, hotter surface of summer-heated blacktop in the same fashion as the cool, green grass. My recollection is a twinge and a slight knee buckle as my flesh melted on the street.  I had to be composed though.

 I couldn’t show any discomfort or pain, or let anyone know I had wimpy feet. I had waited for this new experience and I was going to enjoy it no matter what. My cousin and her friends were cool as the “barefoot gang” and I had to be a member.

After the initial shock, I got back onto the grass and my feet cooled down. The nerve endings in my feet left the panic mode and went into standby alert. Shawna had decided we should go to McDonald’s for lunch. I thought this was an awesome idea. It would be my first time at the Golden Arches, and my first barefoot excursion. 

I had money in my pocket and blisters forming on my feet. Two of Shawna’s friends were joining us for lunch, so we made our way to pick them up with me lagging behind trying to take advantage of staying on the softer grassy areas.

The McDonald’s was out of the development where Shawna lived. It was on a major highway. Although it was in walking distance, it was in a commercial area, and this meant that the landscaped lawns of suburbia gave way to the hot blacktopped parking lots of a strip mall. We laughed and joked on our way to get our burgers, and I think my feet actually were numb at this point covered in protective blisters.

Everything was okay though. I was actually having lunch without adults ordering for me. I was independent, a free spirit, hanging out in the summer warmth with cool kids and feet that had lost their virgin status. 

This was an original design McDonald’s with walk-up window service. We sat outside and ate our lunch, and I contemplated how I would be able to make the arduous journey back to my cousin’s without shoes.  I would gingerly have to make my way, and try and remain nonchalant about my distress.  I certainly couldn’t don two McDonald’s bags on my feet for the return trip, but I did give it momentary contemplation.

We finished lunch and I still had money, (which means coinage) so I decided we should check out the vending machines in the entrance to the Acme Supermarket.  There were the gumball machines and a machine that contained Rat Fink rings in a little plastic container. I of course went for the trendy Rat Fink jewelry by placing my quarter in the slot and turning the metal crank.  Was I going to be the envy of all my friends or what?

I was so busy modeling the ring that I tripped leaving the grocery store. I stumbled over the metal threshold and broke the blisters on my feet. I made it into the parking lot and went down to my knees like a southern belle having a case of the vapors. 

My feet were back at panic mode, and I fought back a scream, a yodel and a cry. Shawna realized something was wrong as I gasped, “I don’t think I can walk.” She looked at my feet with the broken blisters, bloody and dirt covered, and instantly made a plan.

This was the pre-cellphone era, so calling my aunt to come pick me up was not an option.  Although at age seven or eight I didn’t weigh very much, I was a skinny kid, it was evident that prepubescent girls were not going to be able to carry me a few blocks. My cousin consulted with her friends, looked at me with determination in her eyes, and told me that they would help me into a shopping cart and push me home. “Oh how wonderful!”

I went from being a vacationing guy lunching with friends in my chic hippie-like shoeless style, to injured cargo like a sack of damaged groceries in a metal shopping cart.  Trying to get me into the cart while I hobbled from one foot to the other was a test of will. I managed to slide into the back, hoping no one was watching this fiasco.

My tailbone reminded me that shopping carts were not made for comfort unless you were in the baby seat wearing a diaper. I grasped the sides like a caged animal as my three rescuers began pushing me homeward. 

They showed concern for my self-inflicted injury and me by trying to avoid any potholes in the parking lot. By the time they reached the street, their mission of mercy became a joy ride. They decided it was fun pushing me in the cart – it was time to enjoy the adventure.

I zoomed off the curb as my kidneys relocated somewhere near my shoulders. I clung to the metal cart feeling like Charlton Heston in The Planet of the Apes, being taken into captivity. In some shape or form, 

I was going to arrive back on Talbot Drive to mend my wounds. The girls giggled as they pushed the cart into the development keeping me in the middle of the street where the wobbly wheels traveled best.

The streets in Shawna’s neighborhood were hilly, and it took all three girls to coordinate getting me up the inclines.  The law of gravity helped with the downhill portion of my trip, in fact, it worked a little too well. With just two blocks to go, and the girls getting tired of maneuvering the heavy cart, I noticed we were picking up speed on the steep inclined road. As the momentum increased, I turned to tell Shawna to slow down and found I was in a runaway cart.

“OMG!!!” I saw my not so long life flash before my eyes, with the final image being my mother wagging a disapproving finger at me and holding up my empty sneakers. I couldn’t  yell for help, so I tried to move into crash position and hope for the best.  I mean what could go wrong? So far my day had been moving in such a positive direction.

The three girls stood still for a second in panic before kicking into overdrive and running with all the stamina they had left to grab the cart. The steep road I was heading down bisected another road running the opposite way. I saw that I was headed for someone’s front yard soon to become a bruised casualty or an abstract piece of lawn art.

 There were no curbs in this neighborhood, so I knew I was heading straight onto private property without stopping. I sifted my body to the left, and at the last moment managed to get the cart to avoid the lawn and head up the concrete driveway.  The driveway went uphill, so as the cart rushed up the driveway, headed toward a closed garage door, gravity started pulling me back down toward the road.

I bounced off the wooden door before I started heading in the other direction. I was a boy gone wild. Just as the crazy cart rolled back into the road, my cousin reached me and grabbed its handle. We looked into each others' eyes and burst out laughing. The tension and craziness of the whole scenario had finally registered with us, and we finally lost it.

We laughed all the way back to Shawna’s house. Tears of laughter filled my eyes, as I was finally able to slink out of the back of the cart. I hobbled into the house, and with the sympathetic assistance of my Aunt tended to my ravaged feet. I spent the rest of my visit wearing my sneakers. My feet were sore but manageable with the help of Band-Aids and antiseptic.

I was sure that my mom would do an “I told you so” if I had planned on telling her about my shoeless incident. Moms don’t need to know everything, so there would be no forthcoming information from me.

When growing up, everyday there is an opportunity to learn something new.  I had learned that I needed to take some new experiences in small steps instead of rushing headlong into the situation.  A bit of caution and restraint was not always a bad thing. I decided that my next shoeless excursion would have to involve flip-flops. I needed to work my way up to the Full Monty.  

I returned from my trip a little worse from wear. I didn’t tell my mom about my shopping cart trip until much later. By that time, I owned a pair of sandals, and was on my way to more feet freedom at home.  The summer days of adventure still stretched before me, and I was ready to move on to the next new thing equipped with a first aid kit and a tougher sole.


  1. This is an awesome short story.

  2. this is just well written pure FUNNY!!

  3. Deidre: Thanks for the taking time to comment. I really appreciate the compliment.

  4. Vince, I could picture you in the run away cart. Too funny.

  5. WONDERFUL!!! LOVED this! Thanks SO much for vividly recreating a shared childhood memory! What a surprising amount of freedom I had growing up in Chelsea. With a neighborhood of almost all WWII vets and their families, my mother (and other moms too, apparently) was amazingly trusting. The scorched feet incident comes to mind when I think about summer vacation and cousins. Always loved having you and Gail visiting. Also cherished the opportunity to spend some of my summer vacation with you, Gail, Aunt Loretta, Uncle Vince, and Nana on Franklin Street in Penns Grove--FABULOUS iced tea with orange and lemon, Barnabus and Angelique on the tube, lazy evenings on the front porch, late night TV, yummy sandwiches and chips near midnight, and Barbie, Barbie, Barbie. LOVE YOU, COUSIN!!!

  6. Great story! Looking forward to your next post.

  7. This was way too funny and from your account of the vacation, I think you're related to my family


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