Summer Adventures Shaped The Person I Became


Did you enjoy the Fourth of July? I hope so, because there’s nothing exciting on the calendar now until Halloween.

That’s where “make your own fun” comes in. Let me tell you about it…

Long, long ago, before there were video games you could play on your phone, before both parents needed to work 50 weeks in a row in order to afford two weeks off, before bureaucrats began inching the school calendar toward year-round school, boys and girls had a summer vacation that extended almost from Memorial Day to Labor Day — three whole months! It was glorious!

Just like the kids of today, we would explode out of the building when the bell rang on that last day of school, and race home to begin all the adventures we’d been thinking about during the school year when we were supposed to be concentrating on arithmetic. We had plans. Big plans.

Our plan for the first day was to simply do nothing. We slept late, ate some Cheerios in front of the TV and put on jeans and a T-shirt at about 10 a.m. Mom let us hang out… that first day.

The second day, she was vacuuming under us as we watched TV and nagging us early to get dressed and go outside, culminating with a threat to trap us in the house as she was “getting ready to scrub the kitchen floor.”

Even though we were having a pretty good time inside, no one wanted to be trapped in there, so out we went.

We were already missing our friends, so we hopped on our bikes and made the rounds. Who was home? Who was outside? Who was up for some fun?

The summer started slowly, with bike rides to the shopping center (no malls yet) or the park, but quickly ramped up from there. Soon we were skateboarding over homemade ramps, building bicycles with inverted forks, camping outside with a fire in the barbecue pit and water in the (inflatable) pool. We’d hold a circus or world’s fair in the backyard, act out improvisational plays in the space between our houses and eye the clothesline with every intention of walking the highwire. When I was 17, I painted my car with a powder puff — thick paint and no streaks.

When the sun set, we moved our operation indoors — riding in laundry baskets down the stairs, building model motorcycles in bottles and covering our bedroom furniture in decoupage. One summer, I recreated our church’s entire altar in a corner of my bedroom and was holding services in there until my mother shut it down under charges of blasphemy. Back to playing school.

School? Yes. After three months of unfettered creativity, we sort of missed school — the daily schedule, the customs (like fire drills with no fire) the traditions (gulping down our lunches to get to the after-lunch movie on time) and our classmates (each with a personality so distinct we remember it to this day).

School shaped us into who we are today — but so did summer vacation. Long may it reign.