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N. C. Wyeth: Jim, Long John Silver and his Parrot from the 1911 edition of Treasure Island
"The young ones now face even greater challenges …"

Poets and entranced travel writers have had their way with the MidSummerEvening until anyone might be easily excused for expecting them to seem romantic. I blame too many stars in way too many eyes and a gullible public, and also a distinct shortage of children in recent generations. Though I know I might well sound like the geezer I am when I insist that MidSummerEvenings remain the exclusive domain of kids, I will insist away anyway. Grown-ups, or purported ones, might find reason to sip some beer and shoot off a few illegal fireworks to celebrate a freedom they've unaccountably lost all track of, but kids, especially those not yet outgrown their age in favor of nihilistic pursuits like zombie movies and TicToc threads, own this space and always have. After supper's dispatched, which was a brief distraction at best, the kids take to the yard again as shadows start creeping in. It's still uncommonly though seasonably warm, and anything can happen within a kid enjoying the high that comes from a little too much hot dog chased with ice cream smothered in strawberries. They turn into pirates then and rampage through the long twilight hours. The best any grown-up can do is watch in wonder while perhaps helping to set up the tent in the backyard for the later sleep out.

It helps if the house has a circular yard, one which allows for unimpeded circumnavigation around the house, for as my wise niece noted, when (not if) that hose manages to soak you, running two or three trips around the world, and you're almost completely dried off.
Boundless energy reigns. An apricot tree also helps, for it provides a handy parapet to conquer, lose, and then conquer again in a series of silly strategic thrusts which gain nobody nothing on purpose. Secret hiding places will emerge left and right and any odd bush might host an ambush for any deliberately unsuspecting Uncle David who also answers to Aunt David, too. He remembers the long evenings when the twilight stretches almost into midnight and the freedom generally only enjoyed by genuine pirates, especially those whose parents weren't all hard-assed about bedtimes when adventure lurks within a MidSummerEvening.

Bed, if it's ever embraced, will be scented with the sweet residue of battle, a sword fight featuring a repurposed fallen branch or an actual kidnapping of an orphaned boy seeking his long-lost uncle. It's an evening spent on Treasure Island with shallowly buried treasure beneath almost every shrub. There's almost always a flashlight involved, one capable of casting creepy shadows on the tent roof from the inside so it shines through as if from the inside of a limestone cavern. There's a mom, of course, clucking after her precious girls, and a dad, watchful of the boy, but they properly remain distractions largely ignored, at least until someone needs some permission for another soda or an excuse to temporarily escape to the twenty-first century bathroom inside. Nobody needs a pirate's bathroom habits al fresco in the yard on any MidSummerEvening.

The parents' role, as well as the aunt's and uncle's, is to just remember. They had their days like this, their evenings to later be relived in moments just like this one. They provide permission by studied omission. They keep to the shadows and overlook much of what they witness, for pirate battles need no umpiring. They find their own way across trackless oceans or treacherous side yards. They might throw a flowerpot over that dangerous hose guide hiding in the shadow along side the peony garden, but mostly the adults are free to sit beneath a tree and simply not notice while, of course, nostalgically noticing everything. These hours prove sweeter than supper's strawberries and, if anything, even more fulfilling. Yes, the world's still been recently going to Hell. Ten thousand First World Problems haunt almost every hour of our existence, so it's more than merely reassuring when rampaging pirates prove themselves still capable of taking over an evening if not exactly another Treasure Island. These are not the grown-up's stories to tell, but to witness. These are not the grown-up's adventures, but their offspring's. It's enormously reassuring to recognize that innocence still thriving. In my own youth, I remember rampaging through the backyard cornfield and catching a glimpse of Sputnik glittering overhead. We were wild pirates encountering the space age. The young ones now face even greater challenges, or will tomorrow, once they subdue this latest pirate uprising.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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