Tracy K. Lorenz ...


The Roof

When I was a kid on summer vacation the overriding sensation was excitement – excitement because you never knew what was going to happen. I had my bike, I had my friends, and we had 104 days to, well, not die.

When I woke up in the morning I never had a plan. Sure, I knew a couple games of baseball or tennis were an option but they lacked the excitement of, say, catching pollywogs in the dunes or making a tennis ball cannon or building yet another fort in the woods behind Mark Crandall’s house.  (The funny thing about all the forts we built, and there were a lot of them, is we never bought one piece of wood. We also never worried about OSHA or any other regulatory safety commission. If today’s parents saw the tree forts we constructed they’d have a Grand Mal seizure.)

Every day was a blank page and we had to cram as much adventure/mischief onto that page as possible.

Which brings me to the Lincoln Park roof.

“Lincoln Park” was Lincoln Park Elementary school. It had a playground, it had a basketball court that you couldn’t play on because it was always covered in sand, it had a Little League field that we could play on even though the outfield was covered in sand, and it had a flat roof which was a repository for more Frisbees than Woodstock.

Getting up on the roof wasn’t exactly difficult; whoever designed the building practically begged us to go up there. You had to hop up on a four-foot wall, then climb a pole, scoot your way across a horizontal pipe, get on a smaller roof, and then hoist your way up to the higher roof. Easy Peasy.

Once on the roof it was like an Easter Egg hunt. There were baseballs, footballs, kick balls, Super Balls, and the aforementioned Frisbees. We’d go up there poor little boys, and come down like we owned MC Sports.  The trick was to not go up too often, maybe once a week. You had to let the roof soak like a crab trap.

Every now and then Mr. Jablonski or Mr. Martiny would yell out “Get off that roof” but they never really gave a time frame. The janitor caught us once but I was able to convince him that the twelve baseballs and six Frisbees that we were holding were actually ours. To the best of my knowledge we never once got in trouble for being on that roof, unless you count the time I yelled “Cop!” when there wasn’t a cop and a kid affectionately known as “Boob” jumped off the roof and broke his ankle.

It was a learning experience for him but he’s never thanked me.

There was another roof nearby at St. Francis De Sales Elementary, my Alma Mater, but the trip was a bit more dicey.  The Nunny Bunnies actually lived in the building and if they heard you on the roof they’d come outside and block the exit points and wait you out. They were nuns, they had no place to be.

And just between you and me, I think if we saw more kids building forts or climbing on roofs I bet we’d see a lot less morons opening fire at Hobby Lobby. Inactivity makes the mind wander and spin things in ways that aren’t always realistic, a simple thought given a few days to fester can go quite sour.

So if you have kids, boot ‘em outside. If you don’t have kids, don’t yell at the kids who got booted outside. Kids realistically have about seven summers they can call their own, tops, let them have some fun. Once those days are over they’re off to the workaday world, they’ll have to worry about their own kids and bills and their boss or even bad diseases like ... shingles.

Printed by permission of the author. Email him at Lorenzat Get Tracy’s latest book at or, or download it from
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