Sunday, May 27

School's Out...Almost!

When I was growing up, back in the Dark Ages, we had no central air-conditioning before I turned 12. This meant we spent our summer days in suburbia outside, running like maniacs from early morning until the mosquitoes got too nasty at night. We were the last house on a short dead-end street, the only one for a long time with a pool. The boy next door would rise even before my older brother and I did, and we'd find him waiting outside the back door at seven a.m., his snorkle and inner tube ready for another day in our pool; the other three kids on the street would join us later. We'd eat our lunches outside, sometimes breakfast and dinner too, playing all kinds of games from tackle basketball - don't ask - to kick the can as the sun sank lower on the horizon. None of us went to camp, something I did daydream about based on books I'd read. Ah, those books. In between all the activities and imaginative play of childhood, I'd read: mysteries, The Separate Peace over and over, anything I could get my hands on.

Of course once we got that central air our hours outside diminished. And still later, when I was in high school and then college, there were other entertainments besides running around like a little maniac and other responsibilities, like my summer jobs at Dunkin' Donuts, great source of my infamous white lung disease.

Now I have a seven-year-old daughter and her summers are so different than mine were. Sometime around mid-June she'll start an eight-week adventure day camp. They will run her all day long and it will be wonderful for her - they'll take her to see nearly everything worthwhile there is to see in our small state of Connecticut and some of New York, also taking her swimming nearly every day. And of course, this will be good for me, since my career as a novelist does not allow for a long summer vacation. I need to write; it is what I love and it is how I make my money. But just like I sometimes long for the days before we knew so much about safety - when small kids rode in the front seats of vehicles, having conversations with parents that somehow felt more intimate than those that can be had when one sits in the front seat and the other in the back and no one can see each other's expressions - I can't help but think that all the structure of our new world keeps us entertained and moving, and yet does not allow much room for the quieter pleasures of lying down on the grass next to a good friend, watching the sky move by, lazily turning to that friend, and saying, "Hey, you want to go catch fireflies?"

What were your summers like? And what are your plans after school lets out?

22 comments:

Wendy Toliver said...

We grew up in CO, and my grandparents and aunt lived out in Florida. So every summer, my parents, two younger sibs, and I would board an old (even then) silver van with blue shag carpet and a little card table/cup holder that fit into a hole in the floor and a bed/bench in the back. We'd drive across the states, taking 4-5 days, to visit Mickey Mouse, the shell factory, and the cute boys who bagged groceries at Publix. That's what I remember most, and most fondly, about childhood summers.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Cool, Wendy! And shag carpets - that takes me back!

bevrosenbaum said...

Actually, my kids' summers are not all that different than mine. From age nine on, I went to an overnight camp in July, and just lazed around the house in August. Now my kids do exactly the same thing! So there's a nice balance between structure (though the camp they go to is pretty laid back), and lazy summer time. I try not to schedule Fall deadlines. Invariably, this backfires. But my kids are now old enough to entertain themselves, which helps!)
Bev

Draven Atreides said...

My plans this summer? Working. The "real" job and the "other" job. Maybe I'll try and hit up a water park. I've never done that.

GeminiWisdom said...

When I was younger, my summers consisted of summer camps. When I got in high school, they consisted of summer school. Which really sucked (and probably why I dropped out of college). Now, that I'm older and I'm working to pay the bills, this summer will consist of:

~ writing

~ a day at the spa or a water park (birthday gift to myself)

~ a family reunion in Houston

~ writing

~ working FT

~ going to the circus

~ and lots more writing

Sara Hantz said...

Living in the UK we didn't do summer camps. Because we lived in a busy town on a main road my summers used to consist of playing in the back garden with my brothers, or going around to friends houses. And for two weeks every year we would go on holiday to the same place on the east coast of England and meet the same family. And because the weather in the UK isn't brilliant my father used to insure against rain when we were away.... not sure if you can do that nowadays!

Gerb said...

Ah, your post took me back. I loved summers when I was growing up. We swam every day at the outdoor pool at the university where my dad was (still is) a professor. In the evening, a huge neighborhood group met to play kick the can or 'radar' or 'crack the whip' in the park down the block until our parents called us home, one by one. We got sunburned during the day and mosquito welted in the evenings... and had a marvelous time!

alexgirl said...

Summer at your house sounds fun! Except for the summer job at Dunkin Donuts.
My plans this summer?:
GET MARRIED then go on my honeymoon!!!!
Oh, and do as much publicity as possible for my new novel BACK TALK being released July 1.
It's going to be a pretty busy summer.

Erica Orloff said...

My summers used to be spent in a small cottage in upstate NY, living with my grandparents. I spent it fishing, catching fireflies--all those lazy, wonderful, TV-less days. Lots and lots and lots of books.

Now, with four kids . . . summer is kids in and out slamming the doors, catching fireflies, selling lemonade, going swimming--pretty much like mine--but because there's four of them, even with man-to-man defense, my husband and I are outnumbered. Even ZONE defense, we're scr*wed. So it's a lot more chaotic. I don't want them having a lot of structure in summer . . . so I'll be TRYING to write with a LOT of noise. :-)
E

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I love hearing everyone's answers!

And, Alexgirl, congratulations on the upcoming wedding - I hope it's everything you want it to be and that the honeymoon is terrific!

You know, I realized after posting this that I may have made it sound as though my daughter leads a regimented life. In truth, she seems to thrive on a lot going on but she is by no means overscheduled. E.g., today has consisted of: parade with her neighborhood buddy, swimming and swimming and more swimming, and right now she's playing with friends. Oh, and she had a frosting-topped chocolate-chip cupcake for breakfast.

As for me, I spent the day at the parade, then colored my hair and lifted weights, read most of Kelly Parra's excellent novel Graffiti Girl, and tonight we're going to have a few friends over to brainstorm a reality TV series.

When I say my life is good, it is no exaggeration...but please keep those summer reminiscences/plans coming!

stephhale said...

I spent most of my days at my Grandma's pool! I have awesome memories of endless summer days with cousins. I was just thinking the other day (as slathering on SPF 50+ on my two toddlers), did we even have sunscreen when I was little? If so, no one ever slathered it on me.
I do recall drenching myself in oil as a teenager though. Yikes, scary!
This summer will be spent in the backyard with my two little boys in a blur of plastic pools, Elmo sprinklers, digging for worms, and tons of those ice-pop thingies!
xo,
Steph

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Steph, that brings me back! We had a neighbor across the way who seemed to know all the beauty tricks: real oil on the body for a tan, holding teen foil up for the sun to reflect against; real lemons in the hair for highlights. Thankfully, I was too dim or frowzy to attempt any beauty tricks.

I'm still enjoying being in pre-vacation mode. I bought sister blogger Simone Elkeles' sequel to her wonderful How To Ruin A Summer Vacation book and plan to dip into it monmentarily.

Kaethe said...

My summers (ages 7-13) consisted of staying in my room and reading. We lived way the hell out from anywhere, there were no kids to play with, no place to ride a bike, and I had allergies and asthma. Teen summers were spent by a pool, any pool, or doing theater. Yeah, I know, what a geek.

Plans: beach trip in June, Orlando trip in August, work for me, hanging out with the neighbors for the kids, and doling out frozen juice and Gogurt snacks for the Spouse.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

You're not a geek - you're perfect!

Katie Alender said...

Well, I'm just embarking on my summer hiatus, and so far my plans are: entertain houseguests, try to get out of jury duty, go white-water rafting, sew a lot of quilts, and start writing seriously on my new project. When I was a kid, I did the daycamp thing. In high school, I worked at my father's office 5 days a week. I think I prefer my current summer stylings!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

You lost me at the white-water rafting, Katie. :) I'll take jury duty with a good book to read.

Devon Ellington said...

My summers were filled with reading and writing -- preparing me for the life of a writer!

I don't have to worry about school schedules anymore, but this summer's about writing (of course), The Triple Crown, The America's Cup Race, the Saratoga Race meet (all of which I'm covering) and . . .about moving, which is a magilla unto itself.

Devon Ellington
Ink in My Coffee
http://devonellington.wordpress.com

Tasha Alexander said...

Lauren, great post!

We started summer vacation off with chicken pox this year, but will get back to our usual routine tomorrow: walking to the pool everyday. I refuse to drive one mile.

My son, who is eight, gets tired on the way back, but I tell him endless stories about a boy called Herman who makes ridiculous statements and tries to stick to them. Once we get a good story going, my son will walk forever to hear the end.

Barrie said...

My summers were fairly unstructured. We spent loads of time outside, played with the neighbourhood kids, hoped to get invited into somebody's pool. It's more structured for my kids--day camps and sports. There aren't that many neighbourhood kids, so play dates need to be arranged. I read somewhere (I totally forget where) about someone's childhood summers where the mother made everyone read for an hour after lunch. Reading turned into a lifelong habit for these kids. So, I'm trying the after-lunch-reading thing this year. Wish me luck. :)

Shannon said...

Growing up in Pa. I can definetly relate to laying in the grass and catching fireflies! We also spent a lot of time playing in the creek and reading. As a teenager, summers (all free time, actually) was spent at the beach after moving to Florida. Great post! Really takes me back and reminds me to make sure my kids slow down and enjoy some of the smaller things about summer.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Devon, good luck with the move!

Tasha, I had chicken pox at age 41. I'd rather go through 16 hours of labor with no anaesthetic.

Barrie, good luck with the post-lunch reading!

Shannon, great to see you here!

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