Edit ModuleShow Tags

Some Teenagers Did It

Be careful with that nostalgia—you’ll poke out your mind’s eye



Many are the tears that have been shed over the demise of the free-range childhood. Yea, verily, say the child-development experts, of the countless plagues to which our youth may succumb, none is so insidious, none so likely to stunt the growth of the immature intellect, as the lack of unstructured play time. Hearing this, parents wring their hands till their knuckles throb and think I knew it, I’m ruining my kid with all these supervised play dates and spendy summer camps—but what else can I do, given the logistical challenges of today’s two-earner family, not to mention all the creeps and weirdos in the world? But the warm tears do not soothe the tender hand bones, which makes the simple act of driving your child to soccer practice an exercise in pain management, and as you’re fumbling in the glove compartment for an Advil, a song comes on the radio—a song in the overproduced faux-country genre, a song that is to genuine music as McNuggets are to your grandma’s roast chicken. The singer’s voice makes you think of old-growth mahogany dipped in high-fructose corn syrup, and the lyrics speak of dusty roads and swimmin’ holes and shootin’ tin cans with a BB gun while a loyal dawg lopes at your side. Even though you know you’re being manipulated—even though you know they make these songs like biscuits, dipping liberally from a big ol’ lard can labeled “Digital Nostalgia Riffs”—well, it gets to you. You get a big ol’ nostalgia lump in your throat, your vision clouds with a hot mist, and you wail piteously (don’t worry, your kid won’t hear you; he’s got his ears stuffed with iPod tendrils), “My precious darling is missing out on a quintessential American childhood! His bare feet have never known the powdery warmth of a sun-baked country road! He’s never been swimming in unchlorinated water! He’s rarely been more than 50 feet from a parent, teacher, or supervisory adult! His dog is on antidepressants!”

Whoa there, buddy. Before you veer into the oncoming traffic, let’s think this through. In the mid- to late 1960s, I had one of these free-range childhoods, albeit a Minnesota-suburban one, and I look back on it fondly. But should I? It was Socrates who said, kind of, that the unexamined bucolic youth is not worth feeling smug about. So I guess it’s high time for a retrospective analysis of my average pre-teen summer day.

Up in the morning with the twittering birds, into the kitchen for a wholesome breakfast of Rice Krispies topped with many spoonfuls of sugar (it made such a delicious silty sludge at the bottom of the bowl), and out the screen door (slap!) for a morning of Whiffle Ball with the guys. We played in the backyard of a long-vacant house a few doors down, wearing base paths into the lawn and thus making the place that much harder for the owner to sell. Home at noon for a quick lunch, then outside again for (a) another ball game, (b) a crab-apple war, in season, (c) fishing for bullheads at the neighborhood “lake,” not to say “slough,” (d) building another in an endless series of ramshackle wooden forts, or (e) another ball game. Dad came home from work and we had dinner, and then it was back out into the neighborhood for the evening. Long, low, slanting sunlight, the sound of lawn mowers, the smell of barbecue grills, the itchy thrill of waiting for dusk, when hide-and-seek could begin. The luminescence of a white picket fence in early darkness, when the trees are dark masses against the empty ocean of sky; dampness hinting at tomorrow morning’s dew, the earth giving up heat, the air cooling, the smell of lilacs and heavily fertilized grass; the invigorating, razor-minded process of calculating, as you crouched like a commando behind a bush, whether you could make it to home base before the kid who was It got there. The voices of the mothers—always the mothers—calling everyone home, the protesting and acquiescing, the last screen-door slaps, a train passing north of the neighborhood, a dog barking somewhere as we sank into sleep.

How’s that for idyllic? Not bad, at first blush—but if I dwell a bit longer on those summer days, I remember that then, as now, there was a war on, and that’s the sort of thing that can eat into a kid’s tranquility quotient. A young man from our street was serving as a paratrooper in Vietnam, and we worried about him. This slight participation in a larger moral sphere did not prevent us from engaging in ordinary childhood barbarity. For instance: One day we watched as a kid named Stewart built himself a rudimentary fort on the boulevard in front of the vacant house, and as soon as he went home for lunch, we kicked it to bits. We disliked Stewie because he was a whiner and a tattletale, and we also held against him the fact that he was adopted. (Forty years later, as an adoptive parent myself, how do I feel about this? Sick to my stomach.) That afternoon, Stewie’s mom tracked us down and asked if we knew anything about the shocking vandalism that had been perpetrated on her darling’s handiwork. Yeah, we said, some teenagers did it. She asked if we knew what they looked like, and we described them in magnificent detail. She let us go on for a good long while before she told us that she’d watched the whole episode from her bedroom window. Then she made us build her kid a scrap-lumber palace.

I won’t go into the cold brutality of the crab-apple wars, or the atrocities that were perpetrated upon earthworms and bullheads in the name of carefree boyhood angling. My brother and I co-owned a BB gun, and we did use it to plink at cans, but we also shot each other in the ass with it, mostly out of idle curiosity. Even baseball, my deepest joy in those days, was a source of stress. My love for the national pastime was too much for me—it turned me into an insufferable purist and crank. I thought each game should be a transformative aesthetic experience; I wanted Aristotelian catharsis from every flight of a plastic Whiffle Ball. I didn’t get it. Instead, I got yanked into the house and told to stop screaming at the other children.

When we lament the loss of the free-range childhood, we’re not thinking about our kids. We’re pretending our lives were once simple, and we’re feeling sorry for ourselves because we know they never were. Somehow it makes us feel compassionate and generous to declare that we wish our children could live in a world of rope swings and dandelion fluff. For their part, the kids don’t much care about our wishes, declared or otherwise.

Last week, a fourth-grader—one whose fate the universe has placed partly in my hands—said to me, more or less out of the blue, “Dad, kids have a secret life that most adults don’t know anything about.” Whether he heard or read this somewhere or came to it on his own, I think he’s right. But now is not the time to tell him that this secret life, provided he survives it, will make wonderful fodder for nostalgia someday.

Contributing editor Jeff Johnson wasn’t even the weirdest kid on his block.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Celebrate July 4th With a Patriotic Cocktail

Minnesotans love a good Independence Day weekend, especially with a drink in hand.

Askov Finlayson Announces Expansion + Warby Parker Showroom

The Dayton brothers' North Loop lifestyle store gets new digs this August—where it will contain the hip eyewear brand's first retail outpost in Minnesota.

Hot Russian TV Star Odin Biron Moves Back to MN

Famous in Moscow, Duluth's Odin Biron starts a new chapter in Minnesota
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Read More: Editor's Picks

Hot Russian TV Star Odin Biron Moves Back to MN

Famous in Moscow, Duluth's Odin Biron starts a new chapter in Minnesota

July Arts & Entertainment Picks

Senior editor Quinton Skinner picks this month's top cultural events

Lake Itasca Naturalist Tends to Its Treasures

After 20 years at Itasca State Park, Connie Cox still turns to nature

Summer Swimwear Trends

Beat the heat with this summer's top swimwear trends

Style Profile: Dahlia Brue

Owner of Idun boutique in St. Paul gives modern style a reality check
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

True Grit

How many times does Nicole Curtis, host of DIY Network’s reality hit Rehab Addict, have to insist that the dirt under her nails is real?

12 Great Neighborhoods

Each Twin Cities community has a distinct mix of shops, restaurants, and public spaces that define its unique character. Our insider’s guide to the metro area’s 12 best nodes tells you everything you need to spend a day exploring.

2014 Salary Survey: Who Makes What

How do your earnings compare to the governor’s? The guy releasing your car from the impound lot? We asked the nosy questions so you wouldn’t have to.

Best Doctors for Women 2013

We’ve located Minnesota’s best physicians and practitioners. 408 men and women nominated by their peers, compiled by yours truly. These are the doctors you can trust to get you feeling like yourself again—if not even better.

2014 Top Chiropractors

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Get Your Tickets Now!

Fine Spirits Classic

Sample high-end spirits from around the world, enjoy gourmet bites, and be entertained by local bartenders.

New Vintage - Wine Tasting

A wine club for your 20s and 30s.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Recently Posted on MNMO

Hot Russian TV Star Odin Biron Moves Back to MN

Famous in Moscow, Duluth's Odin Biron starts a new chapter in Minnesota

July Arts & Entertainment Picks

Senior editor Quinton Skinner picks this month's top cultural events

"Romance in Soviet Art" at the Museum of Russian Art

Images of love in Soviet Russia

MN Travel Guide: Where to Golf

Where to find the finest links in Minnesota

2015 Twin Cities School Guide: Best in Class

From preschool to graduate school, Minnesota’s students succeed in the classroom.

Coping: How to Stay Strong Through Life's Ups and Downs

Staying strong through life's ups and downs

Lake Itasca Naturalist Tends to Its Treasures

After 20 years at Itasca State Park, Connie Cox still turns to nature

5 Ways to Stay Safe in Tornado Season

Be prepared for summer storms
Edit ModuleShow Tags

MN Events Calendar Sponsored by:

June 2015

Come to Big Sandy Lodge and Resort to get all the delicious pancakes you can eat for only $5.

Cost: $5

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
View map »


Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

More information

Pride Parade Viewing Party UNION Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Start time: 9am (presale tickets) / 10am (day-of tickets) Live DJs: DJ Lindsay ‘Shiek’ Earney and DJ Lenka...

Cost: $10 (includes a free mimosas, glass of champagne or Absolute cocktail)

Where:
UNION Rooftop
731 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis , MN  55403
View map »

More information

Pride Parade Rooftop Viewing Party CRAVE Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Live DJ: DJ FANCY RESTAURANT Start time: 9am $5 from each ticket donated to OutFront Minnesota ...

Cost: $10 (includes free Absolute or Jameson cocktail)

Where:
CRAVE Rooftop
825 Hennepin Ave MN
Minneapolis , MN  55402
View map »

More information

Come join us at the Skyway Theatre as we take over the block for the Pride Parade!  Drinks and brunch starting at 9am and DJs at 12pm! Get the best seat for the best parade of the...

Cost: No Cover

Where:
Bar Fly & Maruso
715 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Telephone: 612-333-6100
Website »

More information

YogaFit's Mind Body Fitness Conference is where students work towards a Yoga Alliance registry, earn continuing education credits, or simply deepen one's yoga practice and transform...

Cost: $329- $975

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis , MN   55403
View map »


Website »

More information

Show your Pride by taking part in the Twin Cities Pride Rainbow Run on Sunday, June 28th! Starting at Boom Island and ending near Loring Park, the route takes runners along Hennepin Avenue as...

Cost: $30

Where:
Boom Island Park
800 Sibley Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN  55413
View map »


Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

More information

Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Website »

More information

The 2015 Twin Cities Pride Festival features over 400 exhibitors, 40 food and beverage booths, 20 sponsors, and 300,000+ visitors who participate in this free celebration of the GLBT...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow Street
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

More information

Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Website »

More information

The 2015 Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade will be held on Sunday, June 28, beginning at 11 a.m. along Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis. The Parade route starts at 3rd and Hennepin and ends at...

Cost: Free or $40 Grandstand tickets

Where:
Hennepin Ave in Downtown Minneapolis
Hennepin & 3rd to Hennepin & Spruce
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

More information

The Twin Cities Pride Entertainment Team is excited to bring you over 50 local acts during Pride Weekend. The schedule is below, but know that things are subject to change.  ...

Cost: Free. $10 General/$75 VIP for Pride in Concert 6/27 5pm at Loring Stage.

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow St
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Telephone: 612-255-3260
Contact Name: Twin Cities Pride
Website »

More information

The celebration will be held in true Lurcat style, featuring music, dancing, festive food, cocktails and more! Café & Bar Lurcat is central to the Pride festival in Loring Park and found...

Cost: Free to enter

Where:
Cafe & Bar Lurcat
1624 Harmon Pl
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »

More information

What do you get when you explore the magical, yet tangled, intersection between the genius of art and the self-destruction of addiction; set it to catchy music against a backdrop of vivid visual...

Cost: $25.00

Where:
Minnetonka Theatre
18285 Highway 7
Minnetonka, MN  55345
View map »


Website »

More information

Don’t miss one of Minnesota’s hippest and hoppiest events. This local craft beer tasting event includes live music and a ton of tasty appetizers paired with the best brews in the Twin...

Cost: $50

Where:
Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power St.
Minneapolis, MN  55401
View map »


Sponsor: Canvas Health
Website »

More information

The Minnesota Boychoir, under the direction of Mark Johnson, will be concluding their 2015 East Coast Tour with a Welcome Home Concert this Sunday, June 28 at the Graebner Memorial Chapel on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Graebner Memorial Chapel
Saint Paul, MN

More information

Open Window Theatre is making a children's event of fantastical proportions with their summer youth theater production of James and the Giant Peach.  Roald Dahl's imaginative adventure...

Cost: ADVANCE: $6/child (lap child free), $8/student, $12/adult

Where:
Open Window Theatre
Metropolis Minneapolis Building
1313 Chestnut Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »


Telephone: 612-615-1515
Contact Name: Jeremy Stanbary
Website »

More information

We know it's the height of summer, so we think it's the perfect time to get a SUP you'll love. Get your board now while there is still plenty of summer left. Some of our hottest selling...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us for an afternoon of stories, music, and poetry that evoke and express a profound connection to place — places we’ve lived, struggled, thrived, seen changed or destroyed, or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ox Coffee Co
3740 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55407
View map »


Sponsor: Kairos Earth
Telephone: 405-365-8796
Contact Name: Chelsea Scudder
Website »

More information

We know it's the height of summer, so we think it's the perfect time to get a SUP you'll love. Get your board now while there is still plenty of summer left. Some of our hottest selling...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

RN’s and LPN’s for Evenings, Nights & Weekends - $2,000 hiring bonus Trillium Woods, a brand new continuing care retirement community, is opening on July 6th and we are having an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trillium Woods
14633 Country Road 4
Plymouth, MN  55446
View map »

More information

Invest a few life-changing hours in our Power Trading Workshop, where you'll learn: How to identify points where supply and demand are out of balance and price is about to move. The two...

Cost: free

Where:
Online Trading Academy
7900 International Drive Suite 170
Bloomington, MN  55425
View map »


Telephone: 952-814-4410
Website »

More information

Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service. Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides U.S....

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Drive
St. Paul, MN  55106
View map »


Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 612.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
Website »

More information

Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service.   Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Dr
St. Paul, MN  55106
View map »


Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 651.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
Website »

More information

Enhanced and engaged learning, creating and sharing ideas, and forming partnerships are just a few benefits of collaborative classroom learning. Now, with tools like Office 365, OneNote for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN  55425
View map »

More information

 Join us for a 4th of July barbecue, yard games, and outdoor movie hosted by Mary Mother's Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together group. All are welcome! Bring a dish to share. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mary Mother of the Church in Burnsville
3333 E. Cliff Road
Burnsville, MN  55337
View map »


Sponsor: Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together
Telephone: 952-890-0045
Contact Name: Kosi Onyeneho
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

OneNote is a free cross-platform app that helps students and teachers save time, stay organized, and collaborate more effectively in and out of the classroom. Students can build portfolios of...

Cost: Free

Where:
, MN

More information

Summer is the sweetest time to savor the river, so sign up now for River City Revue! It's a delectable blend of live music, cool history, and hands-on art adventures, all happening at the Saint...

Cost: $10 - $15

Where:
St. Paul Yacht Club
375 W Water St
St. Paul, MN  55107
View map »


Sponsor: Mississippi River Fund, Works Progress & the National Park Service
Telephone: 651-291-8164
Contact Name: Katie Nyberg
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enter the halls of Casket Arts to encounter the work of 20+ artists working in paint, sculpture, light, fibers, and sound. A one night only event with several site specific...

Cost: Free

Where:
Casket Arts Carriage House
1707 Jefferson St Ne
Minneapolis, MN  55413
View map »

More information

The flipped classroom is an innovative method of teaching that allows for multimedia lessons and in-class exercises. Now you can “flip” your own classroom using familiar tools like...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN
View map »

More information

The foundation of Jillian's country-esque, classically trained songwriter-style musicianship was built on northern Minnesta's Iron Range. Under the talented eye of Helina Pakola, who has...

Cost: 5

Where:
Mankato Brewery
1119 Center Street
, MN  56003
View map »


Sponsor: Mankato Brewery
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

One of the most highly sought-after skills in the workforce today is coding. In this workshop, we’ll show you how to create an app from a template, add content, and upload an app to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
Bloomington, MN

More information

Bryan Olds Band will be performing live at Big Sandy Lodge and Resort on Friday, July 3. The folk-rock blues band plays a variety of original songs, as well as covers, ranging from Pearl Jam to...

Cost: Check with venue for details.

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
View map »


Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

More information

The 90’s alternative rock band – The Mallrats – will take the Amphitheater stage at Grand Casino Hinckley on Friday, July 3 at 8:30 p.m. Following the show will be a spectacular...

Cost: $10 general admission

Where:
Grand Casino Hinckley Amphitheater
777 Lady Luck Dr
Hinckley, MN  55037
View map »


Website »

More information

Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill Presents Award Winning Vocalist Patty Peterson & Friends with Special Guest Melanie Rosales Friday, July 3, 2015 - 9:30pm 761 Washington Avenue N,...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
761 Washington Ave N
#325
Minneapolis, MN  55401
View map »


Sponsor: Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
Telephone: 847-624-5087
Contact Name: Carrie Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

It’s almost that special time of year again, where you pull out your flag, grab your lawn chair, and put on that sunscreen…the 68th annual Saint Anthony Park 4th of July Parade and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Anthony Park/Langford Park
Saint Paul, MN  55108


Sponsor: 4th In The Park Committee & The Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation
Telephone: 651-343-7365
Contact Name: Josh Becerra, Jeanne Hansen, & Emma Seeley
Website »

More information

Mystic Lake’s Rock and Rockets Fourth of July Celebration returns this year with another spectacular fireworks display. The free, all-ages event will take place outside Mystic Lake beginning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
2400 Mystic Lake Blvd.
Prior Lake, MN  55372
View map »


Telephone: 952-496-7388
Website »

More information

Celebrate this Independence Day by watching fireworks light up the night sky over Big Sandy Lake. The event will take place at dusk, between Davis and Goff’s Bay, on the Fourth of July.

Cost: Free

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
View map »


Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Restaurants

Browse all listings »

MNMO e-newsletters

MNMO E-newsletters
 

Your guide to the good life, delivered to your in-box.

Click here to sign up to receive MNMO e-newsletters.

Once you submit your email, you will then select which e-newsletters you want.

We don’t like spam either, so we’ll keep your e-mail address to ourselves.