Every Summer Has a Story
Summertime is a season of ripeness; and with its longer days and warmer temperatures, it gifts everyone a chance to be outside and join the rhythm of Life. As seasons go, Summer is Life’s grand stage as it reaches full bloom before going to seed. School students are typically prompted in the Spring, and again in the Autumn, to share “what will they do?” or “where did they go?” and “who did they see?” on their summer break. There is an odd accounting of everyone’s whereabouts during the summer months—and as a child, I thought of it as a Registry of Adventures and Mischief to somehow to be scored and measured.
As a kid, you learn to measure long before you understand the size or value of anything. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you learn that you’ve been measuring all wrong.
Michelle Obama, Becoming
Summer can feel magical and enchanted with its own set of allowances that the other seasons don’t seem to have enough joie de vivre to carry off: like summer reads, summer flings, and a spontaneity that flits around campfires and shooting stars. When I was growing up in the back roads of a small Colorado mountain town, summers were a strange mix of numbing boredom and intense pockets of imagination being dramatized with what was on hand: namely, one neighborhood kid roughly my age and acres and acres of open meadows and nearby forests. And a lot of reading.
My neighborhood consort was a boy a year younger than me. We would explore creek beds, capture toads and garden snakes, and ride bikes—but only in the summer, when I explained he could be one of the Hardy Boys to my Nancy Drew. During the school year, especially on the school bus, we were indifferent to each other’s existence. Back at school, in the early autumn, the past summer activities would become a blur that could not hold up to what sounded like the amazing family vacations or summer camps that my classmates all experienced. Summers would then feel like wasted opportunities—a garden that was full of weeds and bore no fruit.
Now as an adult, with a lot of summer adventure and family vacations captured in photo albums, I’ve learned to measure memories and to value the simple pleasures that only summertime, the season, can offer: fresh berries, cool mud between the toes, the buzz of the bees, the fancy of hummingbirds, and my children visiting on their summer break.
More recently, though, summer reminds me of my dad, Will, who died suddenly two years ago, in July. He was born in July as well. He loved the mountains and nature. I recall different moments from my childhood that, at the time, seemed mundane but now are a treasure. My dad rarely took a summer vacation from work, but would return home after a long commute and sometimes unwind by playing catch with my brother and me. The days were long, the grass was cool to the touch, particularly when barefoot, and we would be throwing the baseball until you could barely make out the speeding form hit the center of the glove with a SMACK. Still feeling the sting to the hand, I would throw it back hoping for one more toss. I didn’t want it to end, but the setting sun, the biting mosquitoes, and my dad’s retreat to indoors meant that day was done.
These memories are precious to me now. I’d tell my younger self to not worry about other kid’s summer camps or beach vacations. Instead I can describe the smell and feel of a weathered baseball mitt, and my dad’s smile as he throws a high pop-fly watching my brother and I challenge each other for the catch.
What summer stories enrich your sense of belonging to a place or to yourself? What are you looking forward to doing this summer?