I grew up in a small northern Wisconsin town where a bicycle with one gear and coaster brakes got you everywhere you wanted to go in plenty of time. Small town life in the 1950s might sound constraining to a child of today, but consider this: Mortal threats to children were unpublicized in those days, and the main child care technique for harried stay-at-home moms during the summer was banishing their offspring to the outdoors as much as possible. For the most part we left the house after breakfast and returned for dinner, having snacked at various friends’ houses during the day. And the best part? No one asked what we’d been up to.
I remember learning to read by the “Dick and Jane” system of memorizing words by sight and repetition. Besides giving generations of readers a metaphor for stultifying conformity, those insipid siblings provided a strong incentive to branch out to real books. My favorite summer activity in bad weather was to lie out on our screened porch, which had a tin roof, and read while the rain played snare drums overhead. To this day, if I have no obligations, there is no better indulgence than an afternoon spent with a book and the sound of a downpour.
Books: My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell), True Grit (Charles Portis), The End of Vandalism (Tom Drury)
Twilight Zone broadcast: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (based on a story by Ambrose Bierce)
Fastener: Paper clip
Vegetable: Lima bean
Destination goal: Lima, Peru
Dream dessert: Key lima pie
Annoyance: Informational graphics that suck