Throwback Summer

Summer

Remember when vacation was a season?

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We couldn’t wait to grow up. We dreamed about it while reading Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and anything by Judy Blume. We talked about it as we floated around the pool with “Footloose” blaring from the boombox.

And, finally, we did grow up. And it was fun – the driving, the voting, the drinking, the credit cards, all that doing what we wanted when we wanted with whoever we wanted.

And then came the responsibility – the job, the mortgage, the mouths to feed – the whole hardworking, respectable citizen shebang.

At some point, you may have realized, a little wistfully, that we were snookered. That all the freedom and opportunity we long for…it leads us down a road paved with responsibilities, commitments, diapers and carpools…

And, in the midst of all that, there is a casualty  – our summer.

Oh, we still have summer – the fun in the sun, flip-flopping, grilling out, beach-tripping, and fireworks. But with it, we also have the 12 month/40+ hours a week job, lawn mowing, the sky-high A/C bills, the post-beach trip AMEX bill, the dermatologist appointments for the suspicious moles from sins of summers past, , and of course, the necessary evil that is swimsuit shopping for women.

It is an unfortunate fact of adulthood that summer ceases to be a synonym for vacation.

In fact, a whole summer can pass without vacation. Vacation is no longer a season as it was in our youth. Instead, it is relegated to a couple of multi-day trips at random times during the year. As adults, our daily lives change little with the arrival of summer. Mostly, we’re just thankful for the warm weather and, maybe best of all, the shorter commute with its speedy passage through school zones.

But, if we wax nostalgic, we remember how refreshing and satisfying those youthful summers were. To put it in perspective, having a 9-12 week vacation now feels like an unfathomable luxury, an extravagance denied until retirement. To get that, one practically has to suffer a major illness or maybe the removal of a necessary organ. To the adult mind, having the summer “off” amounts to an almost deliciously sinful amount of rest and relaxation. All that staying up late, sleeping in, and those lazy days with unstructured time – well, it would either ruin you for all future productive work or it would rejuvenate you to do your best work ever. Most of us can only speculate…

The summers of our youth weren’t just lazy days, though. Lest we be bored, we had summer camps, book clubs, vacation bible schools, retreats, sleep-overs and mission trips. There were always interesting places to go and fun things to do – either right down the street or or a state or two away, hopefully with an appropriate level of supervision and clean underwear.

When we think about it, what we probably miss most of all is that feeling of returning in the fall, well-rested, as a better version of ourselves.

Summer is, after all, a season of growth. Much like crops, kids grow in the summer. Physically, of course, we were growing like weeds back then.  But also, mentally and emotionally, we were budding and blooming and maturing in ways that we wouldn’t be able to articulate for years to come.

Basically, with all those camps and retreats and mission trips, you go to new places and you meet new people and your life is never the same. You return to school in the fall with new interests and experience, maybe some new friends and eyes that see more distant horizons. Even if you never left town, in just the pages of a book on your assigned summer reading list, you traveled to new lands and came back older and wiser.

And that’s it….the June-September metamorphosis…just the opportunity for it, the anticipation and promise of it – that’s the real beauty of summer when you’re a kid. As adults, most of us are still craving that seasonal metamorphosis in some way, shape or form….the trick is how to get it.

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