For all the wonderful things I’ve experienced in my life so far, I’ve yet to encounter anything that comes close to replicating the excitement of the last day of school before summer vacation. I still remember the satisfying feeling brought on by cleaning all the papers out of my desk and tossing them directly into the trash — no need to so much as glance at any of them. The day’s rising heat brought with it the promise of sleeping late, swimsuits, and long, lazy afternoons punctuated by grape Popsicles, running leaps through the backyard sprinkler and burgers sizzling on the grill.
Back then, summer meant visits from the neighborhood ice cream truck, rainbow-colored snow cones and clusters of sweaty kids clutching damp dollar bills . My sister, Natalie , and I raced around the neighborhood on our bikes (no helmets! no shoes!), completely disregarded all advice regarding sunscreen, and stayed up well past our bedtime every night waiting for the sun to finally go down. Everything we did had an aura of magic to it because we knew summer wouldn’t last forever.
Summer’s here again, and hardly anyone I know seems to care much. Sure, they might comment on how nice the weather is or mention what they’re doing on their upcoming vacation, but there’s no excitement in their voices, no real sense of anticipation, no fun. Some people I know have even said they dread summertime because life is so much more challenging when their kids are home from school.
And I get it. I really do.
For the last several years, summer has been nothing more to me than a warmer version of any other season: I still had to get up and go to work every morning, run errands, pay bills, and make sure the fridge was stocked and the bathrooms were clean. Although I’d often gaze longingly out my office window, I’d reassure myself that being a responsible adult required sacrifices, and that there was nothing that could be done to change that.
This summer, I’ve decided to try to prove myself wrong. Although I still have to go to work, I’m determined to get the most out of the fleeting summer season. And while I probably won’t start riding my bike barefoot around the neighborhood, I have discovered a few things that might make summer feel a bit more like it did when I was a kid:
Spending more time outside.
As a kid, I spent nearly all day, every day outdoors during the summer. So even if it’s really hot out, or perhaps especially if it is, I’ve decided to make it a point to get outside, away from air conditioning, and enjoy the scents of blooming flowers and freshly cut grass. Best of all, I can do this whether I’ve got five minutes or 50.
Doing things I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do any other time of year.
I’m thinking along the lines of going to the beach, sitting on the actual sand in an actual bathing suit, and maybe even going in the water. I’d also like to go on a whale watch, ride a roller coaster, sip drinks at an outdoor cafe, shop for groceries at a farm stand, and hopefully get an ice cream cone or two, completely avoiding places like the mall until after Labor Day.
Living in the moment.
No matter what I was doing during the summer as a kid, that’s all I was thinking about. My friends and I were fully present during our neighborhood kickball games, Italian ice runs to the corner store, and massive water balloon fights. We weren’t thinking about our responsibilities; we just had fun.
Seeing people I care about.
One of my fondest summer memories growing up was having the opportunity to spend time with people I didn’t get to see the rest of the year — for example, my grandparents who lived in Arizona. After my husband and I bought our first house almost 17 years ago, we had a big barbecue every summer, an all-out bash, inviting most of the people we knew. But life got busy and we haven’t done it in years, even though we have a lot more room now. Thinking back, our friends always seemed happy to sit in our tiny backyard, out in the blazing sun, paper plates balanced on their laps, because no matter what else was going on in our lives, we were together, and it was summer, and we knew it would be gone in a flash.