I like to think we know how to do summer. We like to have a good time.
Our children have been availed of road trips with cousins and giggled for miles. They have toured cool, hushed and musty museums, eaten at countless variations of the “Dairee Bar” in small towns across four states. Our son has ordered a “cheeseburger, plain please” in some of the finest restaurants as we traveled.
At home, they had a swimming pool and trampoline and acres of pasture, berries and bugs.
On weekends, we often went to the lake. Always the same one, they have grown up here.
They have watched the ebb and tide of water levels and development. They have grown up and grown older and watched the playground lose its magic. They sought bigger thrills.
Like parents the world over, we have wanted to give our children more than we had ourselves. Of course, we had it pretty darn good.
Growing up, in my solidly middle class Midwestern neighborhood a swimming pool was so rare as to be almost unheard of. And nobody had a trampoline except maybe circus folks, I guess. Still, we had fun.
We hung out on an asphalt paved playground full of hot metal bars and slides, and not a single mother hovered over us watching. We played games with made-up rules that almost always ended in someone taking their ball and stomping home mad.
We ate Hydrox sandwich cookies (Oreo knock-offs because what are we, rich?) and waited 30 minutes to get into a three-foot pool.
Beaches offered hot sand littered with cigarette butts and RC Cola bottles. The chemical coconut scent of Coppertone wafted across backyards dotted with plastic webbed lawn chairs and tinny transistor radios blared the current summer hits.
The ding of the ice cream truck in the distance, racing home to get money, almost always in loose change. You got more bang for your buck with a “cone” offering a rock hard gumball at the bottom, but I was a bomb pop girl. Give me that old red, white and blue.
Speaking of which, in 1976 the entire nation turned red, white and blue for the 200th birthday of our nation. I recall being 8, and my great-grandmother let me decorate white cupcakes with cinnamon red candies for the Fourth of July picnic. The flavor was suspect but the design was spot on.
There were endless parades, everywhere. To this day I’m not certain if I went to endless parades throughout my life or 47 parades in that summer alone.
It was a big thrill when the Channel 3 News Anchors waved from the back of a convertible. They look so much bigger than they did on our 19-inch TV. A brush with fame indeed!
Age of innocence
I wore comfortable tennis shoes, flip flops or bare feet everywhere. My bicycle had a banana seat and a plastic basket with daisies on it.
We never had air conditioning but we did have a fan. It was fun to speak into, changing our voices. The truly brave risked sliding a straw, card, or finger near the blades — enjoying that thrilling adrenaline rush of risk of ending up being the fingerless kid our mothers had warned us about.
Mine was a landlocked childhood. I did not grow up around water. I longed to, so now my children do. They grow brown and strong and ride waves with wild abandon. They are nimble on docks and rocks and sleek like porpoise in the water.
Their summers smell of campfires and the uniquely rich smell of gasoline and lake water when boating. They grew up with tan lines from life jackets worn sunup to bedtime. They had camp clothes and could pack themselves at age 6.
Of course Boywonder to this day thinks all he needs is one sweatshirt and maybe two pair of swim trunks — for four days.
Ebb and flow
Now, our summer weekends are not guaranteed. We come to the lake and hope they can make it — between dates, jobs, and practice. They come bearing friends and laughter.
My son said once, “I hope I always have a boat.”
I hope so, too.
As we pull them around the lake on a skis, or a tube, I can’t help but think that I hope they remember this. I hope they hold these memories close.
This summer is halfway over. No one ever wants it to end. Unfortunately it always does. If we are blessed and lucky, however, the memories and the moments live on in the sights and smells and lingering history of the summers before and the summers to come.
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