OE Sheepdog wrote about his longing for a real summer vacation, and it got me thinking about great summers I have had. What makes for a perfect summer day?
When I was 12, a perfect summer day meant getting up to find no chore list from my mother on the kitchen table. I could put a saddle on my horse Bonnie and go ride out through the field to the woods. It was always cool in the woods. I could take a book, and tie Bonnie to a tree, where she would happily graze on the grass around it while I read. Of course, if it was really hot, I'd just turn her out into the pasture, and go up into the hayloft. I had an old fan up there, and the book and I would spend an afternoon being air-cooled. If I was lucky and my dad was feeling good, maybe he'd take us down to the backwaters (the little lake-like thing formed by the Hodenpyle Dam on the Manistee River), where we could swim and maybe hang out with school pals, since most everybody spent some time camping down there in the summer. The best part of all was knowing that it was July 1, and I didn't have anywhere I needed to be until August 28. That made a pretty perfect summer day. Glorious freedom!
When I was 16, a perfect summer day involved jumping in my car, a 1980 Olds Cutlass, and just driving around to my friends' houses. I loved going up the hills and around the curves on the gravel roads. Laura's mom always had peanut butter cookies around--always! Steph's mom could be relied on to be at work, so we'd be free to do as we pleased, so long as we had her home by 11:00. Jason and Amber's parents were usually up for a game of euchre with the kids, and Shannon's dad always had great stories to tell about his misspent youth, so who wouldn't want to hang out there? If we were feeling flush, we might all hop in the Cutlass and head to TC for a movie. Maybe a double feature at the Cherry Bowl Drive-in, but more likely the afternoon matinee at the old theater by the Meijer, or the $1 movies downtown at the State Theater. Maybe a quick dip in Grand Traverse Bay, if the beach wasn't too crowded. The best part was that I didn't have to ask the parents for a ride, or spending money, since I had my own. Friends and freedom!
When I was 20, the perfect summer day meant a case of beer, a bonfire and a bunch of friends on the lakeshore out at Little Presque Isle--better still if it was payday! Tyler and James would bring their guitars, and we'd sing our way through the entire Grateful Dead catalog, with a little Tracy Chapman and some Beatles thrown in for good measure. Hot dogs taste 89% better when roasted over an open fire of wood you gathered yourself. We'd stay out there until after dark, watching the moon on the water, and the flash of the lighthouse on the point, singing and telling jokes and just generally making the best memories of our young lives. Have you ever skinny-dipped in Lake Superior with 15 of your closest friends? It's a bracing experience, to say the least. No parents. No rules. Freedom!
This Independence Day weekend, I say we all seek out a perfect summer day. No obligations. Do whatever will give you a smile, and make some more of those great memories--whether it's barbecuing with your whole clan, or taking a whole day to read that book you've been meaning to get to. Get you some freedom!