Rediscovering Summer

Summer: when parents push strollers through mellow evenings; laughter drifts across backyard fences; and multitudinous shades of geen shimmer in all directions.

Under the sun of summer, I’m less obsessed by what to fix for dinner and how well I slept. I stand taller, breathe easier and open more readily to spontaneity, idle chit-chat and stray dogs.

Yesterday while running errands, I stopped to visit with a friend well into her eighth decade. “I love this time of year; it makes me feel like a child again,” she said. “I used to spend my summers helping with chores mostly, but when I had time I studied anthills, watched butterflies, listened to bird song, scanned the night sky for fallings stars and walked barefoot on cool grass. There are few summers left to me now, and I like to spend them doing those same things.”

Later, remembering her words, I thought about my childhood excitement when the bus pulled away from our elementary school, and we chanted, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.” School and winter were vanquished; summer would never end; and the rituals of a Lake Shore childhood could begin.

To pass a self-imposed test of endurance and nerve, my siblings and I walked barefooted outdoors in the heat of the day on all available surfaces — course gravel, asphalt, the sharp edges of salt grass, baked mud and the chicken run — hopping and complaining unthinkable. When not testing our bare-foot bravado, we timed each other to see who rode the bike to the end of the lane and back the fastest. When a treacherous rut toppled us mid-ride, we wore our scabbed knees and elbows as badges of honor.

We dove or belly-flopped into the chlorine-heavy water of Arrowhead Pool and swam as far as we could underwater, carefully marking one another’s progress. Riding bareback and double, we guided our horse along country lanes framed by sugar beets and alfalfa. Those who rode behind tried not to hold on to the rider in front, even during a gallop, but usually did. When eating watermelon, we saved the heart of our piece to eat last so we could mock those less disciplined whose last taste was gnawed rind.

We held buttercups under one another’s chins, checking to see who liked butter, and split the ends of dandelion stems with our tongues, sucking on them until they curled up like a slinky. We plucked petals from daisies to discover if he loved us or loved us not and made dolls from hollyhock blossoms, which, more often than not, we threw at each other.

When young, one day melted into another and summer seemed endless. But, inevitably, our childhood summers yielded to the responsibilities and restraints of adulthood. Then, as we busily accomplished stuff, June, July and August raced by like crazed carousel horses; and we didn’t notice.

Now, like my friend, retirement has restored summer to me. Once again, I have time to focus on the elusive smell of honeysuckle, the cool breath of an evening breeze, the sight of goldfinches jostling for position on a bird feeder and the voices of children riding their bicycles pell-mell to the pool.

My summer days will never again slow to the pace they kept during my childhood, but my pleasure in them has been renewed — and they are as delicious as ever.

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64 thoughts on “Rediscovering Summer

    • Thanks, Rob. I’m doing a better job this year of being in summer as opposed to looking out at it. I’m spending a lot of time on my flowers, walking every day in various neighborhoods checking out my neighbors yards, eating meals outside, writing outside, reading outside, and I’ve returned to hiking, which I neglected last year.

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  1. Aaah. summer! Your words brought so many summer memories back! I share many of the experiences and games you write about. We didn’t have water available, only the dry prairie, so we were denied that pleasure, and consequently only a few out of the 7 children ever learned to swim! I think were were priviledged to have so much freedom—if our mothers only knew what we were up to! Love your writing, Aunt Beulah!

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    • Thanks, Diane. I enjoyed your happy comment. We were privileged with freedom. My mother once told me she decided Lake Shore was the perfect place to raise her children and made the determination not to worry about what we were up to as long as we came home smiling and friends. She did make Utah Lake off-limits without an adult along, and we obeyed — usually!

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  2. I enjoyed the “summer memories” your post brought to the forefront of my mind. The scabbed knees and elbows, sunburns that would eventually peal and saving the heart of the watermelon. All the best parts of a childhood summer. Enjoyed your post once again!

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    • I’m glad my memories helped you remember your summers, Dawna. And thanks for reminding me about sunburns, a big part of my summers that should have been included in this post. Maybe the next one.

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  3. oh so true and as I am now in winter my special things about being retired are being able to choose to stay home and snuggle up with a book, or be a lie a bed on rainy day thinking of those poor people of to work lol. Oh but summer days are my favorite the warm lazy buzz of bees in the flowers and waves washing on the sea shore, the bright blue skies and sitting on my porch having a coffee in the morning sunshine.

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    • Lynne, you sound like a woman who knows how to enjoy the best of any season. Now you’re retired, your winters sound perfect and your summers even better. The only time I get to hear waves washing ashore is when I’m on vacation. It must be wonderful to hear that sound every day.

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  4. Here I forgot how we used to check on liking butter- I wonder if kids still do that. We were lucky to have farm and ocean, and every night soaked sandy, scraped feet in” Dettol”- still love the smell of “Dettol” .That and charred weiners over the beach fire…aah summer- grand post, thanks Janet.

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    • Yet another thing I’d have mentioned had I remembered: charred weiners; only mine were over a bonfire in the mountains. I loved them. I remember being appalled at a cousin who preferred his weiners raw. I don’t know if kids still check to see who liked butter. I hope so. I’ll ask my grandkids. I always love your comments, Sheila.

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    • Hello Janet, I to had cousins who ate raw weiners- Ma was appalled, the “You Will Get Worms” thing. They had jugs of “Freshie” at the beach, we had home made rootbeer. And flambe’ marshmallows. How it all wafts back..

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      • Lucie, we, too, had homemade rootbeer in the mountains, either bottles of Dad’s home-brew sitting in a washtub full of ice or instant rootbeer over dry ice in metal milk cans. And flambe’ marshmallows used to dance in my dreams. Again, thanks for helping me remember.

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  5. I remember reading quietly indoors during scorching desert summers days that were relieved only by the cool, moist air of an evaporative cooler. When the day cooled and windows were opened, curtains moved with the breeze and we knew we could wildly play outside until it was past dark. Perhaps that’s why dusk is still my favorite time and I savor summer evenings.
    Now, with many years past, there’s a special moment when I walk outside one morning and realize, yes, oh yes, it’s summer again. As you say, Janet, it’s delicious, and I’m grateful for the freedom to enjoy it.

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    • Thanks for sharing these stories, Mercy: things about my dear friend I hadn’t known before. Like you, always, sometimes more than once a day, I rejoice in my freedom to enjoy summer.

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      • You thought I might like “Dandelion Wine”, and I love it. I mention it here as it’s a story of one boy’s summer when he discovers he’s “alive”. He tells his brother “I’m alive – thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don’t watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you’re doing and it’s the first time, really.” Douglas begins a yellow nickle tablet and records his summer; DISCOVERIES AND REVELATIONS.
        Janet, you have those special eyes that help me see and remember what I’ve forgotten. Thank you, and thank you to Ray Bradbury.

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      • I’m thrilled that you loved Bradbury’s delightful book as much as I did. After Bev told me I should read it, I did so; and then I immediately bought a copy and sent it to my mother. She had the same reaction as you and I and Bev had — all women I admire. I’m now thinking I should reread Dandelion Wine. It will be time well spent. And thanks, Mary; when I write I often wonder what your thoughts or memories will be in response.

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  6. This was such a pleasure to read and relive. Retirement has taken me back to my carefree childhood. Lots of times I don’t even pay attention to the time or day of the week. That’s such a joy. Reblogging this treasure.

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  7. A delightful read and memory. I will never be able to do the same dangerous and delightful things I did in summer at my current age of 73, but I do visit the memories often and share them with my grand children. I hear shouts of laughter “Oh Nonna did you really do that? We want to do that too.” And, so they do. Yes I can relive summer and the joy of it through these little darlings that sit before me.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories.

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    • How delightful. I’d never thought that when I tell my grandchildren stories and they re-enact them or when teach them a game from my past that I am visiting and re-living my memories. But you’re right. I am. Thank you for your insightful comment. I’ll visit your blog soon.

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  8. Lovely post, treasured words.
    As someone who has rarely been able to work, through ill health, summer and its memories have always kept me going and I’ve not actually lost many of those perceptions. They also keep me going through the cold and dark of British winters.

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    • I hope my words triggered some of those memories for you, Val. Though I’m sorry to hear about your poor health, I’m glad you’ve always had summer. I misplaced mine for several years. Winters here are also cold, but there are many days of sunshine and blue skies, which helps; that, and as you say, the memories of summer.

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  9. OMG! I couldn’t have read a nicer piece to end my lovely Summer evening spent with my friend, Shawn, who’s visiting from Washington. Thanks, Buddy, for the trip down memory lane. I TOTALLY forgot about holding up the butter cups under our chins until you reminded me…how do you remember that far back? I can’t remember what I did YESTERDAY, for Pete’s sake. You amaze me, Woman. Just a beautifully written piece of a time period rich with memories…..Another post that “takes me home”…Loved it, Janet. Absolutely loved how you brought us from the 80 year old woman to the smells, sounds and activities of our chlorine-filled, belly flopping youth! Beautiful piece, my friend. 😉

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    • Ah, Lucie, what kind words from my friendly reader. Thank you. I’m glad I took you back home. I don’t know how I remembered the butter test. I just thought about my childhood summers, and it all popped into my head. I do know I used to retreat into my own head and notice things more than my more rambunctious siblings did.

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  10. Holding buttercups under chins to see who liked butter! This brought back memories! I hope that my son will enjoy long summer days spent in the backyard enjoying life too, I know I will treasure every moment I get to relive my childhood with him over his summers!

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    • Katie, I hope those same things for you. When I married Joel, he brought children and grandchildren into my life because I never had children of my own. The grandchildren helped me relive my childhood summers as your son will do for you, I’m sure.

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  11. I love these memories of summer. Your words conjure so many delightful scenes.

    When I started working full-time I hated that summer days were just like all the others; I desperately missed my time spent outdoors enjoying the treasures of the season.

    Your final two paragraphs are beautiful. How wonderful to have the pleasures of summer days restored and renewed in retirement.

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    • I thought you would be another who thrilled to long summer days and missed them when we had to assume adult responsibilities and jobs. Thanks for enjoying the last two paragraphs; they are what I hoped folks would leave with.

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  12. I am struck by the continual theme of nature and carefree living of each day in your writing. I can’t help but envision this craze of “pokeymon go” and see it’s hideous contrast to the wild, fresh, lovely memories you speak so kindly to. Our world is so fraught with busy bustling distraction it is no wonder we must implement a “summer” season to give us some restraint. Sadly, I feel that most don’t take the time to sit and enjoy the view from one designated place. Listening to the natural sounds, seeing details, hearing their own heart beat. It troubles me.
    Your post is lovely, kind, innocent and full of just the things our world needs to right itself and remember that we are connected to a universe greater than ourselves. Happy summer dreaming, Janet. Enjoy the view!

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    • We are fraught with “busy bustling distraction,” Carrie. I watch families in restaurants or traveling, each with his or her technology, expressing irritation when interrupted by a conversational gambit from a loved one. I think much of our busyness is self-inflicted. I’m glad you found this post lovely kind, and innocent. Those words mean a lot to me.

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  13. I love the way you contrast “being in” summer with “looking at” summer. This doesn’t demand wild activity, but it does require us to walk outside and notice and enjoy what’s so lovely about this time of year. As children, we didn’t loll around in the holidays, did we? And yet we had all the time in the world.

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    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Rachel. I hadn’t realized I was building the contrast between being in and looking at the world, but I was. And I love your last thought that as children we didn’t loll around, yet we had all the time in the world. So true.

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  14. Pingback: Five Tips for a Happy Neighborhood. | From guestwriters

  15. I wish I knew how to give my kids those summers… In the age of technology, even as we attempt to go back to the adventure and imagination of summers long forgotten, it feels like an endlessly uphill battle to show them that it’s worth setting aside watching OTHER people live and living their own lives in real time – without a video, without a photo, and without sharing it with someone else – just BEING and celebrating the world around us. sigh

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    • I sigh those same sighs over our grandchildren, Carolyn, and I don’t know the answer. You last sentence captures perfectly what I wanted to convey in this post. As always, thank you for a meaningful comment.

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  16. Looking back through a couple of generations I don’t remember being bored in summer. Today’s kids sit inside and play video games and still say they are bored. I think sometimes it’s a parent’s fault for not introducing them to the REAL life outside. I really enjoyed this post Janet.

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  17. Once while growing up we had a drought. An endless summer of reading, it seemed, lying in a hammock I made from a chaff bag. Fond memories you provoked, Janet. We did not do the buttercup thing, nor suck on dandelion stems, but we did eat ‘plum puddings’, the little seed pod on a pink-flowered weed and play with snails and furry striped caterpillars. My interest in photography has made me see all these little things again.

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