Memories of a City Kid’s Summer

By Gabrielle Sierra

Go. Leave the city. Flee to your upstate houses, your lakeside homes and your ocean-front rentals. New York summers belong to us. The native New Yorkers, the city kids.

Our summers aren’t for backyard pools or manicured lawns or days spent in air-conditioned basements. They are for screaming, running, falling. For skinned knees. For sneakers hitting hot cement. For jumping through sprinklers or being blasted by an open fire-hydrant, cartwheeling back and forth in the street. For us rolling ten deep, fifteen deep, every day. We fill the street. Kids with nowhere to go and nothing to do for two whole months.

Our summer is for games in driveways and for tagging your little brother just a little too hard so you have to run and hide before your mother finds you. For spinning and spinning until you fall onto your back to watch the world above you twist.

We play Freeze Tag and Spud and Man Hunt and tear across the block, darting into front yards, exploring rooftops and sneaking up alleys. Homebase is always the same tree, a beast that can only be seen in tunnel vision as your legs pump as hard and as fast as they can, moving you just ahead of an outstretched hand.

Our summers are for the Ice Cream Man, whose name is Mike, who rings his bells as he cruises up each street, sending even the calmest of kids into mild hysterics, prompting us to run inside and scrounge for change or beg our parents for a few dollars. We devour electric-colored pops that drip into a pool at our feet that will later be overrun with ants.

We draw with chalk over the cracked sidewalk, people complimenting us on our shading skills as they step all over our masterpieces. (Picasso never had to deal with this.) We rescue bugs from the tar oozing on the curb and we listen to the sound of cicadas in the trees.

Our summers are for playing handball in the park “asses up,” the losing team standing against the wall like criminals while they wait for the rubber ball to sting their bare skin.

For those of us lucky enough to grow up near the ocean (yes, New York City has ocean access) our summers are for running to the public beach and never bringing enough of anything, never having an umbrella or the right towel or the appropriate amount of suntan lotion. For sucking the salt from your hair as you walk across the too-hot sand without your shoes on. For smelling the ash can barbeques that are watched over by families who have come down for the whole day, lugging coolers full of meat onto city busses just to spend some time with their children by the water.

My summers don’t smell like hot garbage. They don’t make me want to get out of town. My summers are not for the faint of heart, the bored. We fill the space you leave behind (thanks for clearing out of our way.) We are adventurers, explorers, city kids in the heat.

So go, we’ll be here. See you in the fall.