Few things in life carry more positive connotations for me than summertime. Maybe that’s because very few times in my life has my schedule not revolved around a summer break of some sort. Growing up, my family’s annual beach trips with cousins and friends were probably my favorite weeks of my childhood. Although the beach trips are etched in my mind as purely magical times, it was the day-to-day summertime traditions that were the most special. I grew up in a neighborhood of mostly boys, where summer days were not complete without someone getting soaking wet (a sprinkler or a hose, falling in a creek, or actual intentional swimming), someone getting hurt (rollerblading/biking, falling from a tree/swing/various other high objects, victim of the daily neighborhood prank, bug bite or sting), someone getting mad, and hysterical laughter. We disappeared into the woods until the first mom hollered out the front door that dinner was ready. We camped out, we slept over, we ate all the popsicles, we caught all the bugs, we played in the street until the moon was out. You know the saying, ‘living your best life’? This was the original best life. And we were living it to the fullest.
“The older I get, the more I appreciate my rural childhood. I spent a lot of time outdoors, unsupervised, which is a blessing.”
– Barbara Kingsolver
I graduated from high school and for four more years I followed the college calendar, which meant an even longer summer break, from mid May to late August. Although I worked every summer of college, those three months of the year were still special. Then I worked full-time for a year at a university, where the summertime meant less traffic, less people, shorter lines at the coffee shops–reprieve from the normal hustle and bustle. Between high school and getting married, summertime was host to beach trips, cruises, and a trip of a lifetime to Europe – irreplaceable memories sponsored by summer break. And then, because I had not had enough school/school schedule, I went back for three more years…but wait, there’s more…my graduate degree is in school psychology. Yes, that means a career of summers off (from my 8-5, anyway) if I so choose. Sort of.
Because then, ironically, I married a farmer. Ha! And if you think that marrying a farmer changed my perspective on summertime, you’d be right. We don’t have leisurely three-day (or two-day) summer weekends or do long or fancy summer trips, and we never will (since Easton has been born, Matt usually scratches out 5 days at the beach with my family each summer [for which I am so grateful!], and prays that it rains at home the whole time he’s gone – more on what rain means to a farmer on another day).
The anticipation of the summer months is now met with a trepidation I’ve never known before, of the stress of his 80+ hour work weeks, frequently single-parenting mealtimes and bedtime, and trying to constantly flex our family’s plans to Mother Nature’s demands. Although May to September is Matt’s most demanding and least predictable time of year, my summer break from mid-June to mid-August somewhat balances us out and keeps us sane. So our goal each summer is to fully embrace those days we do have at the beach together, but more than that, to make the most of the simple summertime traditions during the time we have together at home. Looking back, it seems that the simplest things in life, like the times I lived out in the cul-de-sac growing up, are the most enduring, fulfilling, and leave the greatest impact. I know that today’s times often no longer allow for that blissfully unsupervised cul-de-sac summer, but in another sweet twist of fate, that same farm and farmer that keep us landlocked and homebound for much of the summer, will give our kids the back-to-nature, simple summers that we had (whether they want it or not – sorry kids). Partly because in our technology and social media driven culture, I crave the basics – but more, I pray that our children will learn how to make the most of boredom, how to be inventive and creative, to live with humble hearts and always be grateful for and satisfied with the little things. Simple, magical summers help build this character (that I too need, when I find myself envying the frequent and sometimes extravagant trips of families with ample vacation time on their hands).
There is nothing like the promise of another summer on the horizon. In a school building, you can feel it rising in those last few weeks of the school year, like a literal buzz in your ear all day. The anticipation and excitement are palpable.
So, an ode. To the bug catchers, the lemonade sellers, the tiny summertime gardeners and future farmers. To the smell of burgers grilling, freshly cut grass, and the promise of an evening thunderstorm. To endless pool days and that glorious feeling of a cold shower after too much sun and chlorine.
An ode to the sunburnt shoulders, the dirty bare feet, the permanent smell of sunscreen and bug spray. To your kids’ sticky popsicle kisses and proud displays of the critter they caught that day…a scared toad at the kitchen door, a lizard squirming in their little hands. To the late evenings with friends on a porch, your favorite music playing, and a drink in your hand – the summer nights that feed your soul and clear your mind. An ode to ice cream runs with the windows down, and bike rides in your neighborhood. To lake days and beach nights. To s’mores around a campfire, drive-in movies, and the deafening night hum of tree frogs and crickets. To wonderful summer crops – watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, blueberries, squash, zucchini – and the hardworking farmers that make possible this wholesome summertime eating.
An ode to the simple summer, and living our best life.