Jeff Hove and Steve Tyrell would show up to hang out with Matthew as the late summer sun was setting. In the dusk of the evening we'd often all just hang out on the front porch of our house on third street. There was a couple of perches bridged by a railing on the little porch in front of the door facing third street. On the east post, facing away from the house was our American Flag. One of my duties in the summer was to put it out every day and put it away at night.
We'd sit on the perches and talk about what all 13, 14 and 15 year boys talked about: Cars, girls, football, school, tv, movies and the future. I wish somebody would have recorded the conversations we had or at least kept minutes. I was the youngest of the crew and was only allowed in as long as I kept my mouth shut most of the time. Sometimes others would show up to partake in the conversations we had... Eric Kooistra, Eric Hammer... I don't think girls were allowed. This was a different time... we didn't practice equal opportunities for girls. Besides, girls would have just confused us or at least relegated us into an awkward silence.
As the sun receded away and the darkness overtook us, we would want to continue the conversation and continue trying to figure out the meaning to life. So many times I know we were close just as we'd have to call it a night. Sometimes we would do our best to continue the summer night meetings to the very last minute of our allowed curfews. We would maybe turn on the light on the front porch, but often this would just attract mosquitos, junebugs, moths and other bugs, so it was really not much of an option. The answer to our problem lay at the end of the driveway.
Our house was set back from the street about 75 feet or so and getting up the driveway could be a jaunt. All the Nelsons that lived at 905 Third Street became skilled at speed reversing down the driveway. This task especially impressive because of the two concrete brick posts that used to anchor a gate at the end of the driveway back in the days when Dr. DuVall lived there. They were painted dark brown to match the highlights of the house which was painted yellow with brown trim and they were daunting to the beginner using reverse down the long driveway but I got to the point of thinking of them as goalposts and I just shot for the middle and punched it. I'm really surprised I never hit them. I'm surprised I never hit them pulling in to the driveway, particularly on the days that the end of the driveway was all ice. I guess I was lucky in all those years of driving there.
But down at the end of the driveway then right across the street was a streetlight. The streetlight provided us a spot of light to hang out that was away from the house so we were more in the open but still be able to see each other as we talked.
The first times we hung out there, I'm sure we just sat on our bikes and maybe on the curb of the street and just conversed. But soon we realized that we all wanted to sit and visit. So thus began a tradition that was fantastic. Moontanning.
We started to bring lawn chairs down to our parking area. Lounging style lawn chairs that we'd set up side by side by side... like we were on the beach at a resort. What else would you need if you were at the beach sitting on a lawn chair?... Mountain Dew. Considering it was around 1983 or so, those Mountain Dews were likely 16 oz. and in a glass bottle. I could write a whole entry about my memories of the fact that we used glass bottles and the things we would do with them after we were done drinking our soda. We also needed snacks. The forefront of our snack list was dill pickle potato chips. It was almost always dill pickle potato chips. So salty, so dilly, so tart... perfect to get us thirsty for more Mt. Dew.
So there we'd be, whoever showed up that night for the gab session. It might be two of us... it might be 5 of us. We'd lounge, we'd talk, we'd drink Dews, we'd eat dill pickle potato chips... and... we'd wave at the cars as they would drive by. Likely, they were confused by our mere presence. We'd pretend we were lounging in the sunlight. We'd put on shades and look up to the sky as if we were soaking it all in. We called it moontanning.
We'd spend ours getting our "moontan" on. We'd waste away the summer nights that would get progressively cooler and cooler... the looming first day of school that had seemed like an eternity away were now creeping closer and closer. We had thought of so many things that we were going to do over the summer, but now those things were clearly not going to happen. Our depression of self-realization of our limitations began to set in. School supplies were being purchased. New clothes being tried on. The first days of fall sports weighed on our minds.
The first couple days of football would be physical testing. Sprint testing, bench press, agility drills, many others as well as the mile run. Those lineman did not much care for the mile run.
Football didn't really loom over me like it did over the older kids. I was just going into 7th grade when Jeff Hove was going to be a Freshman in high school. I expressed my worries to me about what life was going to be like for me in 7th grade while he worried about 9th grade. He was going to be playing football (and freshmen football players were NOT treated the best.) and I was going to be student manager of the football team with Jay Schleuter. I had my reservations about all the stuff that I would be needing to do, but at least I was not going to be running the mile test. My days of filling water bottles and carrying ball bags to and from the school up to the football field everyday are stories for another day.
Summer would close out and the lawn chairs, Mt. Dew, dill pickle chips and us moontanners quit spending time down by the street as summer rolled into fall but the streetlight kept shining & waiting for us to show up again... which we would eventually, at least every summer for a few years in a row. I don't remember the last time I moontanned but I'm sure if given the opportunity, I would jump all over it in a summer second. Or... at least I'd lounge all over that chair, have some dill pickle chips and soak up that moon.
I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.