Summer is a special time for kids. It’s traditionally a time of no curfews, no homework, no commitments, and no worries. Of course, in recent years, those wonderful, lazy days of summer have become nostalgic, a thing of the past that only people older than, say 45 or so, can remember. So many children in recent generations spend their summer being dragged from one sporting event or another, forced to participate in events and activities that will further their athletic or academic prowess, or tied so tightly to apron strings that they can’t enjoy things like flashlight tag or hide and seek in the dark. Perhaps this is one of the things we are meant to learn during this pandemic. Perhaps we are meant to recall and reinstate those lazy days of summer.
Perhaps we are meant to…Learn to enjoy summer more.
My favorite memories of summer include picking blackberries on the farm across the road from my grandmother’s house; spending long afternoons playing canasta with my best friend, Lynn, while my grandmother watched her “stories” on TV; getting up early to go crabbing with my grandfather or just walking through the tobacco field by his side; playing kick the can for hours with Lynn, my brothers, and our cousins; and sometimes, doing absolutely nothing at all.
When I was at home, I spent my days riding my bike anywhere I wanted. Mom had a vague idea where I was, but I had few rules and no obligations. Curfews were a fluid thing, “around dark” in most cases. It wasn’t unusual for me to call home, on the spur of the moment, and say I was eating dinner at Jerry’s house or spending the night at Laura’s. The darker it got, the more fun we had–innocent fun–playing flashlight tag, hide and seek, or catching fireflies (which we only ever called lightning bugs). A few times each summer, I went to Cindy’s beach house where we did much of the same things we did back home – by today’s standards, mostly nothing, and that was more than okay.
This was the type of existence I wanted my own children to have every summer. And they did – sometimes. Alas, we allowed sports to get in the way of fun summer evenings. Field hockey and swim team consumed more hours than I want to count. It broke my heart when my champion swimmer no longer wanted to swim in our pool. “I’m just so tired of swimming all day,” she would say. We spent a lot of time traveling, and I wouldn’t trade those vacations for the world, but by the end of the summer we often complained, “I wish we had spent more time at home.”
Well, isn’t it funny how sometimes, those wishes are granted in ways you least expect?
Our backyard movie theater gets set up every May. It’s my favorite thing about the summer, and ever year I look forward to many nights in my lounge chair (made by my awesome dad) watching movies with the family. By October, I typically lament that we had only watched two or three movies, and I sigh heavily as I watch the screen come down, wondering where the summer had gone.
Last week, we watched 4 movies and the National Mall fireworks display on our big screen. We’ve averaged two movies a week since we put up the screen just before Memorial Day weekend.
We’ve been on our boat and caught crabs more this summer than all recent summers combined.
We’ve gone on bike rides or long walks almost every evening, discovering things about our small town that we never knew in the 19+ years that we’ve lived here.
We’ve had cookouts and game nights and gone kayaking and even had whole Sunday afternoons of doing nothing but lying in the hammock reading a good book.
If things hadn’t gone the way they had–pandemic, shut-downs, international border closings–Ken and I would be in Florence, Italy at this very moment. He would be teaching a class at the International School of Energy Regulation, and I would be strolling through the pedestrian streets, probably with my friend Antonella, or having lunch with our friend, Libby. I would be enjoying every moment, and I would have no complaints.
Back at home, I would be spending a huge amount of time planning the Girl Scout camp I run every summer. And I would be loving every minute, looking forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new girls. I relish that week of camp and hated to cancel it this year. It’s so much a part of me and so many others, and I think I know why we all love it so much. It’s when almost 200 of us come together for a week of swimming, kayaking, hiking, zip lining, and cooking s’mores over an open campfire. It’s a week of fun, games, outdoor activities, and no interference from the outside world. It’s a week to relax with friends and enjoy all that summer has to offer.
As it is, we’re looking forward to family camping trips in July and August and praying that next summer we can travel and attend camp. I still want to do those things. I still want our summers to be full of adventure and have some sort of routine, but a big part of me just wants to keep returning to the days when summer was summer. I want to watch movies in the backyard, go on the boat, fish and crab, camp with my family, go on bike rides and long walks, and do everything that we’ve been given the golden opportunity to do now.
I hope that everyone is having a good summer. I hope everyone is taking advantage of this blessing we have been given. I hope kids and adults alike are playing flashlight tag, exploring their neighborhoods, and taking the time to soak in all that summer was meant to be. Next year, if all is back to normal, this summer will be nothing more than a fleeting memory. Let’s create days that give us some wonderful memories to hold onto, the nostalgic days we look back on with joy and contentment. Let’s try to remember how much we once loved the freedom to actually enjoy the less hectic, lazy days of summer. We owe it to our kids to teach them the joys of catching fireflies, of dancing under the spray of a fire hydrant, of staying out late with friends to play tag, of riding bikes as far as the tires can take us, of leaping of boats and climbing trees, and of collapsing in bed at night knowing it was a day worthy of being spent.
Make this summer at home count like never before.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).