Back in June, I thought summer was an all you can eat buffet of leisure splayed out before me like a picnic at the park.
My mind raced with all that could be done in three whole months.
“I’ll spend afternoons lounging at the beach to get that cool surfer look with a peely nose and streaks of blonde in my hair. I’ll strip, sand, stain and refinish that old dresser my husband has been threatening to drop off at Goodwill. I’ll plant hydrangeas, and lovely cascading window boxes, while wearing a sundress and straw hat. I’ll take a trip to see my mother, and we’ll sit on the porch in rocking chairs telling stories and drinking coffee. I’ll host backyard barbecues with tangy grilled meats, snappy local corn, and fresh peach pies for all our friends.” I thought.
Here it is mid-August, and all I have to show for myself is a few new age spots and a couple of scraggly tomato plants. As fast as a wet kid on a Slip ‘N Slide, but not nearly as much fun, summer simply slid right by me.
What the heck happened?
Summer has been a blur. We spent so many hours packed into our minivan touring colleges and visiting family, that our vehicle now has the permanent aroma of dirty socks and submarine sandwiches. When home, my days were spent shuttling my kids to jobs and get-togethers with their friends; picking up after them; and nagging them to help walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, take SAT practice tests, write college essays and fold laundry.
Apparently, summertime has ceased to be the extended break from reality that it was when I was a kid.
Our parents never had to say it, but we were expected to get up each summer day and, basically, beat it. Go somewhere, do something, get out of the house. I don’t care how hot it is, that’s what garden hoses, creeks, and community pools are for. And don’t ask for money, other than maybe a bit of pocket change for a snow cone.
On boring summer days when I was a kid, I’d get on my bike and ride several miles on rural roads to a local airplane hangar so I could buy a grape soda from the vending machine. I’d arrive home three hours later with a purple mustache and no one gave it a second thought. When it got really hot, my friends and I would stick our feet in the “creek” down in the ravine near our houses, and belt songs like Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” into the massive drainage tunnel that ran under the highway. Our parents were happy we were occupying ourselves, and expressed no concern that we might get hepatitis or parasites from the suspicious water. Some lucky days, my mom would drop me off at the town pool, where I was expected to spend the entire day making friends, feeding myself with a buck fifty in change, and avoiding spinal injuries on the high dive. When it rained, my friends and I were banished to basement rumpus rooms, where we would get into arguments while playing hours of Monopoly, Sorry and Clue.
Back then, it was kids’ solemn obligation to entertain themselves with minimal parental assistance. Now that I’m a parent, I must say … those were the good old days.
But I’m not going to let summer slip on by. Before we find ourselves knee deep in school physical forms and summer reading reports, I’m determined to slow down and take a good old-fashioned break.
Next week, my family of five is headed to Maine. We’re renting a rustic cabin on Great Pond — a remote military recreation facility about an hour north of Bangor — with no Internet access, no phone service, and no cable television. Just a clear lake, canoes, picnic tables, fire pits, Adirondack chairs, and a lodge with ping pong and stacks of board games.
It may not be a drainage tunnel under the highway and I’m not sure if they’ll have grape sodas, but I’m pretty sure we’ll entertain ourselves just fine.