Looking ahead to a summer within walking distance

“We only get one chance. Maybe there’s only one summer to every customer.” –Mr. Sloan, The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance (1959)

Sunrise in the Outer Banks (2009)

Sunrise in the Outer Banks (2009)

One of the things I miss most about childhood is summer break. At this time of year, school would let out for about three months.

Three months. On the first day of that break, it seemed like an infinite amount of time waiting to be filled. The magic of those three summer months was in their potential.

Having such an extended break allowed many opportunities to wind down from a challenging school year and eventually begin to build up for the next one.

One of the first things we always did on summer break was visit the public library. My little sister and I would each come out of there with books stacked almost to our eyes. We would read them all, too, and soon be back for more.

Summer break was my absolute favorite time to read. In the daytime, I used to love sitting outside while I read book after book. At night, I would stay up until the wee hours reading in bed. I vividly remember reading one that I just could not put down, Scruffy. It was written from a dog’s point-of-view, which made it unique. Only summer break allowed this kind of intense focus on one activity – in this case, marathon reading.

I did not spend every second reading, though. I would also jump on my bike and explore our neighborhood, sometimes with friends or my sister, other times alone. These adventures were my first taste of independence. My mom even gave me an emergency quarter in case I needed to use a pay phone to call her. I would be gone for hours. Sometimes I would stop at the convenience store for a Coke or to play 1942 or maybe at the drugstore to buy Voltron sticker packs.

No one wore helmets or pads when riding bikes back then. I scraped up my knees pretty good a couple of times and knocked myself silly once, but I came through okay. There was hardly any traffic on the backstreets of the neighborhood during the day, except for other kids on bikes. I always felt safe.

Summer was also time for backyard baseball. Other than a brief stint on a bowling team, if that even counts, I never played organized sports. My friends and I organized them ourselves in our backyards, though. I dreamed of being a pitcher, someone like Nolan Ryan. In reality, my abilities were closer to those of another baseball legend, Charlie Brown.

On rainy or extremely hot days, I might sit at the kitchen table to write short stories or camp out on the living room floor to draw. My sister and I might play board games like Stratego, chess, and Monopoly for hours. My mom might even jump in and challenge us. She was especially good at Stratego.

STRATEGO: Epic battles for rainy summer days

Stratego: Epic battles for rainy summer days

“Is it so bad where you’re from? Maybe when you go back, you’ll find that there are merry-go-rounds and band concerts where you are. Maybe you haven’t been looking in the right place. You’ve been looking behind you. Try looking ahead.”  –Mr. Sloan, The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance (1959)

Thirty years down the road, three-month summer breaks seem like impossible dreams. Summer vacations from work tend to be of the one-week variety. Time is fleeting.

This year, though, I am going to try to recapture some of the magic of summer, even if I do not have unlimited time off to do it. This summer, I am going to:

  • Check out books from the library and obsessively read them
  • Spend more time outside
  • Write short stories at the kitchen table
  • Draw pictures
  • Play board games with my little sister

Each summer only comes around once. I want to make the most of this one.