As I was nostalging about “the old days” recently, I decided that nine-years-old is the absolutely most perfect age of all.
When you’re nine years old, you can already read. When you’re nine, you can ride a bike. When you’re nine, you can play ball, and be a cub scout, and even try to build a tree house.
But you’re too young to have any real responsibilities.You haven’t reached “double-digits” yet. You’re not a teen-ager… not an adolescent. When you’re nine, you’re just a kid… but you’re the oldest kid you can be. (That’s not really true. I know some people who are, like, 54-years old, and they’re still pretty much kids… but that’s another story.)
I was dusting off the cobwebs the other day, and thinking back to when I turned nine years old. The year was 1962. (If you do the math, that means I’m now 54-years old.)
There was school… but it was not complicated. I got up every morning at 7:15, ate cereal, and walked out to catch the bus. Since I was one of the last stops on the bus route, all the seats were usually taken by the time I got on… so I stood up during the 10 minute ride to Lexington Elementary School… and it never occurred to me that I should have a seat.
When I arrived at school, I found my assigned desk, put my books onto the little shelf under the seat, pulled out some paper and started drawing pictures or doodling. I pretty much kept drawing all day long, unless we were told to do something that required writing.
I listened to whatever the teacher was saying most of the day, because ADD hadn’t been invented yet.
Although I was perfectly content half-listening to the teacher and drawing or doodling all day, there were two very bright spots in the school day: lunch and recess… especially recess!!!
At lunchtime we marched in line through the sandy parking lot to the lunch room… unless it was raining, in which case we marched in line through the entire building to reach the lunchroom… including walking by the sixth, seventh, and eighth grader’s classrooms, which was both thrilling and intimidating for a third grader.
At recess, the world opened up. Hundreds of kids descended on the out-of-doors. The younger kids stayed in the area of the sand-filled bus parking lot; but the older kids went down the hill to the playground bounded by the branch. When you’re nine, you can fit well into either group… the young kids or the old kids.
The highlight of recess, nearly every day, was seeing someone walking back into school soaking wet from trying to jump across the branch. Someone always tried. After all, we were admonished daily to “stay away from the branch” by our teachers, so how could we resist.
At the end of the day, the announcement came on the school loudspeaker: “Town children are now excused!”… and I knew there were only 10 or 15 more minutes before the bus-riders would be excused, too.
After another bus ride home – sometimes seated, sometimes not – I arrived at home and my real life began.
First, I would always help myself to another bowl of cereal. (You may have noticed that the highlight of lunch in elementary school is the march to the lunchroom, not the delicacies served when you got there.)
With my cereal prepared, I would find myself a seat on the floor in front of our one-channel, black and white TV and settle in for an hour or two of slapstick comedy: The Little Rascals, The Three Stooges, and lots and lots of cartoons. When you’re nine, you really enjoy cartoons.
The one channel our TV picked up was WIS-TV in Columbia, which means I tuned in to watch Jolly Jim and Chief Silly Horse, or later, Mr. Knozit. Once, my cub scout troop even made a trip to visit the studio, and we were ON the show!!!
After the cartoons were over, I headed outside…. either to my bike, to ride the neighborhood… or else to the woods at the edge of the backyard, to continue the construction of my fort. Some days it was both….the bike ride and the fort… just because that’s where my buddies and I ended up after riding bikes aimlessly for an hour.
About dark-thirty, it was always time to come in for supper. When you’re nine, you don’t think about where the food for that supper came from, you just enjoy it. Similarly, after supper was the bath – not a shower, a bath – once again with no thought of where the water for the bath came from.
Actually, when you’re nine, you don’t really think much about where anything comes from. Or about what the future holds, beyond maybe the next day… as in, “what are the consequences if I don’t do my homework?”
When you’re nine, you mostly don’t have a worry in the world. It’s the best age to be.