My summers have certainly changed since I was a kid playing outside all day, running through the creek or the sprinkler to cool off and then camping outside with my cousins almost every night. The middle school me spent many of my summer days outside, working on my tan, helping on the farm or at my brother’s baseball games. By high school, several of my summer weekdays [and weekends] were taken over by part time jobs, band or cross country practice, and a lovely trip to Europe, but even they left plenty of time for hanging out with friends and going to the movies every week. Even though I started internships during college that had me working 9-5 every day, summers then still seemed carefree and evenings and weekends spent with friends took on a special new quality, as we basked in what seemed to be the last truly carefree summer days of our lives.
Then came the real world. I didn’t even allow myself that one last youthful summer after college: I graduated on Sunday, moved to DC on Monday and started my internship on Tuesday. Sure it was just an internship so I didn’t have to work late or on weekends, but I was still on my own and, for the first time, fully responsible for all my expenses. I did have a great time exploring the city and playing softball on the Mall and the very DC post-work activity of rooftop happy hours. Still, I could tell summers had changed.
In the midst of my fourth real world summer, I’m feeling nostalgic. Sitting in an office building all day, staring through another office to get a glimpse of the day outside, I think about the days when I could pick and choose what I wanted to do and meeting up with friends any day, any time was a possibility. Coming home to an apartment building in the city, I think about summer cookouts with the grill fired up and dinners on the patio. Walking Weasley in the evenings as the summer heat begins to yield and seeing lightning bugs dot the lawns of the homes in my neighborhood takes me even further back to plastic jars with holes in the lids and bugs of all kinds living on leaves and twigs inside.
Thankfully, I’m finding ways to indulge in my own grown-up version of a carefree summer. A flexible summer work schedule gives me every other Friday to pick and choose what I want to do, even if that is getting caught up on housework and errands so I can have my weekend completely free. Babysitting gives me a chance to relive my youth as we draw with sidewalk chalk, eat popsicles and get sprayed with the hose to cool down and clean up. Jazz in the Garden on Friday night means I can enjoy dinner outdoors as well as impromptu time with friends, since you never know who might show up. I even learned while walking Weasley one night that a neon yellow shirt is like a honing beacon for lightning bugs, after 4 or 5 flew right up and landed on my arm. One of the best carefree things I’ve done this summer is completely unplug during vacation, actually turning the email and Facebook alerts off on my phone…I had a difficult time convincing myself to turn them back on when the week ended. Thanks to that little experiment, I’m don’t feel tied to my computer, phone or DVR quite as much as I used to and have been indulging my bookworm side, something my summers haven’t included in awhile.
The thing about nostalgia is that it filters out the parts we don’t necessarily want to remember, in this case the endless complaints of “Mom, I’m bored!” Although, as nice as it sounds, I know if I did have all summer completely to myself, soon enough I’d be saying the same thing [except probably to Weasley…and hoping he wouldn’t actually respond].