People always say that Christmas is a holiday most exciting for children, and that it’s always better with a child in the house. That may be, but I think that summer is the season for children.
I always feel nostalgic at the beginning of summer, especially during the years I’ve worked and watched as schools let out, as the world becomes more frenzied with kids chasing one another across my path and packs of out-for-the-summer revelers behind me in an ice cream line. Sometimes, I feel a jealousy so overwhelming that I want to turn around, brandish something fierce-looking for emphasis, and demand that they enjoy their damn summer vacation, because all too soon they’ll have bills to pay. This would be way more convincing if I were wizened and gray-haired, though it’s all just a matter of time.
For me, childhood summers have become some sort of golden age in my mind. There were the summers I always spent at blind camp, which usually took place over my birthday. We had great celebrations of cake and everyone would be forced to sit still and watch me open my packages from home. In hindsight, this must have been miserable for them. Everyone would make me Braille cards. There was the year of the surprise party, which was not a surprise because my camp BFF spilled the beans the night before, when I was wallowing in the melodrama that no one would actually REMEMBER my birthday. Everyone always did, or at least the grown-ups made sure they did, but I was nevertheless overly concerned anyway.
There were the summers where I felt I was too old for camp, right after we moved houses at the dawn of my teenage years. I would swing in the backyard, with my earphones blaring bad Top 40 or whatever weird alternative stuff I thought was cool at the time. I’d pretend I was someone else. Lost in the music and the wind making a tangle of my hair (always unnecessarily long then), I’d picture myself winning awards, or asking out all my crushes, or else just acting really cool in front of them so they’d ask me out. I’d be somewhere else, not in my parents’ house. I determined I would go back to school in the fall looking totally different, and no one would recognize me. I’d go from nerdy blind to super cool blind in one hot, rollicking second of one summer.
Summer was for reading everything I didn’t get to during my over achiever school years. It was for sleepovers in the house, the backyard, and, when I was little, the playhouse my dad built. I remember the summer I discovered snow cones sold out of a little trailor resurrected down the street from the just-moved-into house. It was called Rainbow Snow. My favorite was a boring old cherry French vanilla combo, although I mostly ordered some citrusy over-sweet thing called “Tiger’s Blood”, because it made me feel more badass. I was always more bad-ass in my head than out in public. Some things never change.
There was the summer when I was 6 or so, and my dad showed me the skeletons of dead bees and butterflies (as a learning experience, I’m sure, not as a sadistic nightmare conjuring experience). I became so fascinated that I collected dead leaves, grass, sand, and all matter of shrubbery to cobble in a shoe box, which I called my “nature box.” The time I shoehorned a live beetle in there, It started wrustling among all the flora from where it sat on my dresser. From my bed, it sounded like the footfalls of some night creature coming to get me. There was much howling for my parents after that, who rescued me from my bed and the beetle from its shoe box prison. Nightmare conjuring accomplished.
Summer is a busy time for my mind, a time where I feel like I have some small permission to let my whimsy off its winter leash. I feel more playful, and that my playfulness is more acceptable. I like to listen to music and read books of summer’s past. (Every summer I reread Seventeenth Summer, even though it’s dreadfully slow-paced and nothing seems to happen, but I keenly know the turbulent world of Angie’s angst bubbling just below the surface). This summer, I’ll probably also make my way through the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books again, to relive those breathless summers of beaches, boys, and best friends. I can’t help myself. “Coming of age” in summer seems like such a fleeting thing, a heartbeat and then it’s gone, but it holds so much promise and expectation.
I’m Wishing you all summers full of spontaneity and discovery. Tell me your summer memories too!