Happy Summer Solstice to you! It's officially summer! And whatever summer means to you.
When I think of summer I mostly think of days long ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a kid.
Summer meant, no school for three long months. And even though I was that wierd kid who actually liked school, I also liked the summer break away from school. Summer mean jello parfaits for dinner eaten outside under the streetlight on the corner. It meant shorts and sandals and ponytails. Summer meant lazy afternoons reading books on the front porch or days of running amuck with my sister and all of the neighboring kids.
Summer felt endless. I mean, we knew better, we knew that eventually September would roll around and we would be back in school with new shoes and new teachers and the smell of pencil shavings and chalk dust would fill the air again. But that was so far in the distance that it might just as well not exist at all.
Summer was for other things like family vacation time. That usually meant a trip to visit relatives in either Michigan or Maine. And that in turn would consist long car drives which ended with great adventures. Family vacation was suitcases and paper maps and picnics on the side of the road. My mom always packed a cooler with the making for sandwiches along the way. Sometimes though we got to buy a soda out of that massive, icey cold machine at the gas station. Not the new machine with the glass front. This one you had to reach way down into and the sodas were wet with melty ice and the machine fought back when you tried to take the bottle you wanted.
We rarely stayed in hotels but instead with other friends of our parents or family members who lived along the route. But on the rare occasion that we did get to spend the night in a hotel, that was yet another adventure! Maybe there was a pool! Once in awhile a hotel room might have a colour Television! We ate Kelloggs snack pack cereal right out of the box for breakfast and somehow being allowed to fill the ice bucket from the machine down the hall was privilege. Like I said, adventure.
Once we were home again it meant a lot of time was spent outside in the neighborhood roaming with a pack of other neighborhood kids. A mix of ages, boys and girls, all hanging out together all day long. We hung out in one yard and then another and then another. If we got thirsty we drank out of whoever's water hose was nearby. Occasionally somebody's mom was really nice and brought us Popsicle with a warning to properly dispose of the sticks, she didn't want to come outside later and see popsicles sticks everywhere! Nobody said to not run with the sticks in our mouths though and so we probably did.
We climbed trees and over fences and drew in the dirt. We played existing games and invented other games. We played with everybody's dogs, everybody's toys and rarely did anybody get into a fistfight. If it did happen, it was usually short lived and everybody was friends again afterwards and nobody's mom stepped in to stop it. We policed ourselves and each other.
We went out early in the morning and didn't go home until it was time to eat and by then we were filthy and sweaty and tired. We probably had a bump or a bruise or a scuffed area on a knee or an elbow but nobody made a big deal out of it. Our hair was all tangled and it's entirely possible that there was a hole in our shorts or a tear in a hem or a button missing and that we definitely heard about. But it made no difference and the next day would be more of the same.
If summer had a fragrance it was a combination of suntan lotion (the one in the mint green bottle) sweat and dirt. It smells of library books and play-doh and Barbie dolls and yes each of those things has a specific fragrance.
Summer sounds like different sorts of balls bouncing against pavement, a bat or the garage door. The tink of marbles hitting against each other, the slap of rubber flipflops against the sidewalk and a endless discussions about whether or not Batman could defeat Superman. Summer is hula hoops and giggles and sidewalk chalk.
Those months taste like Pixie Sticks and snow cones as we clothespinned playing cards to bicycle spokes to make that flappity sound. There was the ringring of a tricycle bell. And there was always that one responsible kid in the entire neighborhood who still had his skate key but was kind enough to loan it to each other kid for their skates. Big kids looked out for the little kids and everybody got to play. If a traditional game didn't work out exactly for the gathered group we called, 'house rules' and changed the rules to fit the group.
Now of course I'm adult. And during the summer I'm inside most of the time in the air conditioning so I only get sweaty if I'm out hiking or doing the noonwalk. I can no longer even bear the smell of pixie sticks...I cannot imagine eating them. I'm too clumsy to risk wearing flipflops and I wear sunscreen instead of sun tan oil. I no longer own any comic books, I still cannot properly twirl a hulahoop and it's been eons since I captured fireflies in a jar or freeze tagged anybody.
What is it about adulthood that makes us forget how to properly do summer? Because I know I used to love it long ago. And nowadays I mostly drink a lot iced water and complain about what the humidity does to my hair. Maybe I need to spend some time laying in the grass looking at the clouds to see what shapes I see there and buy an ice cream from a truck. Do you think that will help? I am not sure where to find the time machine that will take me back so I can remember how to do summer right again.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.