Photo Courtesy of Jill111 on PixaBay
When we were young and summer finally arrived, the hot days seemed to be packed full of adventure and stretch out forever. Once that final bell signaled summer vacation, we shot out those glass doors like horses out of the starting gate. The sky was never bluer, the grass more green, and the possibilities endless of what was in store for us that summer.
Life in the Midwest
I grew up in the Midwest close to extended family. There were grandma and grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins on my mother’s side. My dad’s side were farmers—my grandma and the rest of the clan only an hour and a half by car.
Summers were full of cookouts, swimming, 4-H projects, church camp and whatever! All I knew was there was no homework and we didn’t have to head to bed early. I’d wake to the coo cooing of Mourning Doves and heat would stir the songs of cicadas, sometimes as early as June.
Summer at the Pool
I’d grab my bowl of Captain Crunch and sit outside to laze in the lounge chair. Then, shed my clothes for a swimsuit, hop on my bike and dash to the local pool to begin the transformation to a dark shade of brown. My friend Lisa and I chewed on pretzel rods, cherry Swizzlers and slugged endless Cokes. If we craved a hot dog or hot fudge sundae, we’d skitter across the street like sand crabs, trying not to burn the soles of our feet on baking pavement. The snack bar was always open, and had a party atmosphere full of older kids milling around in their cars, blasting rock ‘n roll or Beach Boys from turned up speakers.
Endless summer days provided enough time to perfect my front flip off the low dive in the pool’s deep end. Feeling cocky, I attempted the high dive, leaving me reeling from smacking my head. I thought for sure it was cracked open, but there was no blood to be found. Once, I did just about fry myself on the jukebox when plunking coins in while wet, and receiving a jolt that threw me backward on my startled rear end.
Time to Eat!
Satisfied from baking for awhile and freckles multiplied by thousands, I’d head home knowing a feast awaited. There’d either be a cookout at home or the grandparents’ house across town with char-broiled hamburgers, burnt hot dogs and grandma’s fresh tomatoes bursting with ripened flavor. Also served was cantelope and watermelon, so fresh and juicy it would drip down our chins until we were a sticky mess. Then, the adults would produce the ice cream maker and rock salt, and we’d crank that lever until our arms ached. Vanilla or banana or chocolate like you’ve never tasted. Store bought didn’t compare.
Day shifted to dusk and dusk to starry night. That was my queue to grab a jar, punch a few holes in the top, and chase the bugs with the luminated butts. I’d set the jar next to my bed, staring at those magical critters until sleep finally arrived. Some nights I’d read Nancy Drew mysteries late into the night, while softly playing 45’s on my little record player.
Getting Out of Town
Another highlight of the summer was getting out of town to attend church camp in the woods of Mansfield, Ohio. We’d locate our assigned cabin and unroll puffy sleeping bags on hard bunks. Screened windows offered wide open panoramic views day and night. It was the first place I felt God’s presence so vividly. Dreamily, I soaked in the cricket symphony, hoots of owls, and imagined strange and dangerous wildlife right outside the creaky cabin door. Mugginess seeped through the windows, as did smells of burning campfires and pine.
A Soul-Stirring Story
Counselors would lead us on long hikes through the deep, cool forest. Walking over rocks and roots for what seemed like miles, they’d abruptly stop and gather us at a cave entrance near a waterfall. This was where we learned the story of “Hoppy.” He was a hunchback who could not live among the townspeople. Because they were cruel and made fun of him, he felt more at home in this cave with his friends the birds, chipmunks, deer, and squirrels. When Hoppy died, they were the only ones present at his funeral. Later, some hikers found his bones inside the cave. Tears would pool and spill down my cheeks before the story ended. I got the message to always treat people kindly, even if they’re different.
Rousing us from sleep was always bugle call, followed by “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens or perhaps “Good Morning Starshine,” or “Oh Happy Day.” Before being forced to return home, tearful goodbyes, hugs, and promises to write were shared with new friends and a boyfriend or two.
Back Home Again
Once back home, I’d jump on my bicycle to be alone and process all the memories. Cruising down Main Street with my hands off the handlebars, I was flying free as a bird. Free from school, homework, and teachers. Free to be me and enjoy what was left of the endless summer.
What’s your favorite summer memory? Let us know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
Penelope Silvers is a freelance writer, author,
and radio host of Penelope’s Book Chat on Blog
Talk Radio. She lives simply and sanely on Florida’s
beautiful nature coast.