Sheila Quinn: Hurts So Good

Sheila Quinn: Hurts So Good

Last week, driving home past a nearby campground, I saw a little boy riding this swing exactly the way you are supposed to.  He was standing on top of the backrest of one swing, hanging onto the bars, bending his knees and pushing with all of his might.  Moments like that, well, they drive me through time, hurtling through decades to moments that you don’t know are golden when you’re in them.   You know when decades have past.

This swing, well, what would you call it?  A two-seater, a glider?  We called it “The Hurts So Good Machine”.  At least my friend Jodie and I did.  We called it that with such conviction it requires capital letters at all times, we called it that with the driving force that we used to swing on the HSG Machine.  We would each get on, standing on our respective backrests, and ride that sucker until the legs of the swing set (Those things were somewhat flimsy…and what was the deal with the rust?  It was like you bought them rusty.) unpegged and lifted from the ground, often re-settling in a different spot than their initial anchorage.  I don’t think there are any parents anywhere who managed to keep those things in place.  I can’t count the number of dads I’ve seen haul, yank, right and readjust swing sets.

We rode that thing until we alternated leaning over the top, belting out John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good”, even singing the guitar parts.

We were kids, it was the early 1980’s, and we lived in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, in Richmond.  Some said there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do in Richmond, but we found plenty. (Life hack: There is always plenty to do, no matter where you are.  Truth.)  We took up permanent residency within and without opening hours of the Richmond Municipal Pool, otherwise known as “The Town Pool” or just “The Pool”, our bikes strewn across the surrounding lawns as we spent the entire afternoon baking and swimming.  There we came of age a little, growing up, out of and into our bathing suits there, and eventually, the older boys who would come and stand outside the fence, between the tall decorative cedars that skirted it, wouldn’t be that much older than us, and just maybe it was us they came to see, watch, like skittish predators.  There were legendary cute ones, whom we nicknamed – such as George Michael, to name our favourite.   There were kids whose parents made poor bathing suit choices, not accounting for the awkwardness of body shape and all of those new and crazy reactions we were experiencing.  The lifeguards, especially Jean and Yves, were absolute hands-down celebrity superheroes.  Years later, when the Baywatch t.v. series came to be, well, even the Hof had nothing on them.  They were cool and confident, and smiling.  We could trust them, they were comfortable with us being in their infinite fandom.

We were slaves to music video shoes, Musique Plus, Video Hits and (if we were lucky) Good Rockin’ Tonite.  We liked Terry David Mulligan, but when Stu Jeffries came along as host, we were followers.  We wanted to be in the music, and he had the passes to backstage, if our parents let us stay up that late.  We felt like we were “in” when they did.

Our childhood, and our summertime, was no better than anyone else’s childhood at any time.  If you live in a safe place, the potential for childhood in any era to be absolutely golden with simplicity is always, always the case.  We should always defend one another’s time, no matter the decade.  We should always mourn for those who didn’t get the good life that we did, and bring childhood back for those who missed out, because play and fun can always live, and no one is ever really too old for a good neighbourhood-wide game of sardines or kick-the-can, or in the case of our ‘Hood, a solid game of SPUD.

While we can certainly express gratitude for “having it good”, it is sacrilegious to believe that the period of our childhood is better than anyone else’s.  If our childhood is good, we have it better than more than should ever have to be counted, throughout time, history and today.

Our summer life was made of sandwiches, Mr. Freezes, Big League Chew, Willy Wonka everything, Tupperware juice containers and plastic glasses (emptied and refilled at an astronomical rate), sticks, stones, broken stuff, lies, white lies, tall tales, true stories no one believed, bike wipe-outs, bad ideas, awesome ideas, triumphs, sleeping in the tent trailer on the side lawn, telling horrible jokes, sneaking around, spying on people, listening to/watching stand-up comics our mum didn’t want us to be tainted by (George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Cheech and Chong, Richard Pryor), listening to music that our parents didn’t like or get, being rejected by someone we had a tremendous crush on (or blatantly picking on them, or never telling anyone), having someone like you back, finding a baby bird that had fallen from the nest and not being able to save it, inventing games, witnessing the streetlights come on (and sometimes actually seeing it happen, like spotting a rare creature and just observing it because you know you’re lucky somehow), or having sketchy streetlights go out when you’re walking underneath them, scaring ourselves silly watching horror movies in the middle of the day, countless trips to the dépanneur, bikes, groves of trees, navigating “doing the right thing”, bruised shins, scraped knees, freckles, and hand-me-down everything.

Splinters, frogs, bee stings, fears.  Trying to sleep with a sunburn.  Visits from cousins.  Laughter.  Laughter ringing, laughter in echoes, laughter that frightens off birds, laughter that awakens cats who shake it off and go back to sleep, laughter that shudders through small bodies and activates everything and powers it all.

Summer meant being allowed to sleep out in the back porch at Gran and Bampie Quinn’s, a screened in small room at the end of the hallway on the second floor, where a small single bed, a nightstand, a few smallish wobbly armchairs and a few shelves of books meant the absolute best night’s sleeps of our lives.  Sleeping in the back porch bed meant feeling like you had a room that was actually in the neighbourhood instead of the house, and the glowing Tungsten yellow light made the stories you read until you got too sleepy glow, and you turned out the light, falling asleep among lightning bugs and the tops of the big trees that reached up that high, growing from the bottom of the slope in the backyard.  Sometimes one of my brothers would claim the back porch and be allowed a turn, but chicken out for some reason, feeling a little too in the wild for his taste, and I would happily take his place, as he burrowed into the thick, cold cotton sheets of a bed on the inside of the house.

In one instant, there it all was, the past triggered and breathing.  We were all coming out onto front porches, greeting friends at the door, “Can so-and-so come out and play?”

Time travel exists, and can happen in a millisecond, when you spot a kid riding the hell out of a swingset.  It really does hurt so good.

Author’s Note: In the last year, that beautiful sweet Jodie of ours has been battling for her life, and winning.  From the most intense, body-wracking treatments, to coping with graft-vs-host, she has faced it like that swing set, the legs jarring loose from the soil.  This is for you Joeteenie, for all of the summers to come.  Oh, and by the way….YOU’RE IT.

Categories: News

About Author

Sheila Quinn

Sheila Quinn (known as media mum Sheila Q.) is a radio show host, columnist, music-infused, mother of two/stepmother of two, half of DHTV’s Les Curieux media team, den mother, who works for Champlain Regional College in Lennoxville. Sheila Q.’s bucket list tends to be self-sustaining. She has lots of plans.

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