Tying the laces of my red Converse, which did not quite match my pink polyester halter top, I could not contain my excitement. It was a hot summer day in 1975, and I was going to the pool.
My Kool-Aid backpack – bought with collected labels and saved allowance – was stuffed with my bathing suit, a Budweiser beach towel, a rainbow headband with a really cool transparent visor, and enough coins to buy a raspberry snow cone at the snack bar.
My mother agreed to drop me off after setting her hair, and I couldn’t wait to get out of our neighborhood. Since school let out a few weeks prior, I’d had enough running through sprinklers and playing with Baby Tender Love to last an eternity. Mom put a scarf over her pink plastic rollers, applied a bit of orange lipstick, and we were off.
Unbelted in the front seat of our station wagon, I craned my neck out the window to escape the smoke of my mother’s Tareyton 100s. It was the 70s after all. Everyone’s mom lit up back then. Even if they didn’t show it on TV, it was assumed that Shirley Partridge and Ann Romano hadn’t kicked the habit, and Caroline Ingalls was probably puffing Charles’ elm pipe while he was off fishing with Half-pint.
Hues Corporation’s “Rock the Boat” crackled on the radio as we pulled up the pool entrance. As I slammed the simulated-wood-paneled door, my mother called, “See you at four-o-clock Dumpling!”
That day, I perfected my underwater hand stand, braved the high dive, made a friend, got whistled at for running, and found a dime. By the time Mom picked me up, my skin was wrinkled and I was seeing rainbows around every light.
The next day, I was back to sprinklers and Baby Tender Love. Aside from a week at church camp and a visit from my cousins, my summer was a continuously running loop of the same activities – popsicles, sprinklers, bare feet, pools, dolls, fireflies, and many minutes staring out the window, wondering what to do.
While I was bored and barefoot on those summer days, my mother had plenty of time to garden, nap on her chase lounge, paint with watercolors, can vegetables, crochet groovy afghan squares, and smoke Tareyton 100s.
By the time the first day of school rolled around, we were both ready.
Today, by contrast, summer is pretty much the same as the rest of the year, except hotter.
We set the alarm every morning for sports practices. We order books required for school summer reading programs. We register our kids for online classes, and monitor their progress daily. We’re always late for music lessons. We throw dinner together last minute, we forget to put the car windows up before it rains, we never get around to dusting.
There’s no time to be bored because there’s too much going on. Halfway through the summer, we realize that we’ve haven’t been to the pool. We never got around to doing that beading project we saved for summer. There was no opportunity to take a delicious afternoon nap. That tomato plant I intended to pot on the screened porch has dried and shriveled from neglect.
When did the lazy days of summer turn into summer break at breakneck pace?
Why does it go so fast when it used to last forever? Why are family vacations so exhausting these days? Does anyone grow vegetables in gardens anymore, much less can them? Will I ever be able to stare out the window again? Is it too late to take up smoking?
With only a couple precious weeks of summer break left, I’ve realized something. Summer used to be time of relaxation, when the most difficult task was figuring out how to spend the day. Nowadays, a must-do-it-all mentality has crept into our family lives, robbing us of a much-needed break.
Before it’s too late, I will discipline myself to forget to set the alarm. Skip practice. Unplug the computer. Cut up a watermelon. Turn on the sprinkler. Doze off while sitting in a lawn chair. Pitch a tent in the backyard. Grill hot dogs. Play cards. Catch fireflies. Lie in a hammock and look at the Moon.
With lots of hard work, it’s possible to be lazy again.
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