Summer is here and, when we aren’t dodging sleeting rain and “unseasonable lows,” the living is easy. Sort of.
Memorial Day is the kick off of summer’s bliss. The reward at the end of the long Midwestern winter. The season when we raise our snow brushes in a solemn vow; “we will never wear ugly knit hats again!” At least not for the next 90 days or so.
In the swim. Surely, nothing says summer like a nice, refreshing swim. For mothers this means we spend the afternoon flirting with heat stroke while our children splash happily away.
This is because mommies don’t get wet. Mommies sit high and dry in bathing suits that are almost exclusively navy or black and have little skirts to help camouflage the fact that we are no longer 17 years old and gravity is not really our pal anymore.
In short, the very suits we used to snicker at when we were 17. Time is a wonderful equalizer.
Now dads? Dads are game. They’ll hop into the water like little parental porpoises and play chicken and even cannonball off the diving board if they are feeling particularly zippy.
Meanwhile, mothers, on full alert, stand armed and ready with sun block and snacks. It takes careful planning to time it so that every time a child appears to be having a bang-up good time he is dragged kicking and screaming from the water to be re-submerged in gobs of sun screen and force fed a sandwich. It’s one of the many fine arts of parenting.
Road trip. When swimming gets to be just too darned much fun, one can fall back on the second most popular summer activity; the road trip to “Points of Interest.”
Points of interest are generally anyplace that is not where you currently are. This is why people who live within spitting distance of famous landmarks have never actually visited those landmarks, but will drive for days to visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D.
Find your average New York native and he will probably tell you he’s never actually seen the Statue of Liberty. People who live within earshot of the echos from the Grand Canyon will claim they’ve not yet found time to visit it.
The point of the family road trip isn’t so much the destination, but the journey. Parents are duty-bound to undertake these adventures because, much like fraternity hazing rituals, they survived extended car trips as children and by golly their children will, too!
In my road tripping fantasies we are driving along picturesque roads on lushly serene summer days, singing “99 bottles of pop on the wall.” One big happy, and beautifully bonded I might add, family. Such is the magic of summer dreams.
In reality, we will be driving along with two miserable children, one who recently learned to whine “Are we there yet?” in rapid succession.
Most of our sightseeing will consist of looking for the next clean restroom, and plotting to make a break for it from the endless highway prison of orange construction barrels. I sure hope the corn palace will be worth it.
Fantasy. Yes, summer comes to the Midwest and with it come the fantasies that sustain us through interminable winters.
What we imagine is sparkling cool waters, bucolic family vacations, and lazy afternoons watching the clouds drift by.
What we get is sunburn, sand in our shorts, bee stings and grass that needs mowing every 15 minutes. The dog sheds like he’s cloning himself and we burn the burgers to a carcinogenic crisp on the grill.
Could be worse. Yet, as we stumble through summer with our badly folded road maps and our bottles of SPF 50, we will nonetheless smile serenely as we swat away the endless bugs and traipse through poison ivy.
It could, after all, be snowing.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt gets one horrific sunburn every year because she never actually remembers the sunscreen. She welcomes reader comments c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)