Summer. It’s still a season I wouldn’t want to do without, but as an adult it’s lost a little bit of the magic it had when I was a kid. When the last days of school trickled down until you could count the seconds to freedom. Then, wham! You’re out. The prison doors swing open, trumpets blare, and the sun shines down on you like a gift from the heavens. The smell of fresh cut grass. Grabbing a basket, or a Tupperware bowl, or an old coffee can and picking wild berries. Returning home, triumphant, clutching overflowing containers with your blackberry stained fingers. Digging your bare feet into the dirt as you examine a tomato plant. This plump red jewel grew in the ground, you think. Someday, I will grow all my food. You never do, but you remember your grandmother’s garden fondly. And all her flowers. You live in NYC so you don’t have flowers, although lets be honest, your fire escape is bare. But back to the past. Shorts. Tank tops. Swimsuits. My mother’s fabulous potato salad, made with mayonnaise AND yellow mustard, and green olives and a little cayenne pepper. You always thought you’d learn the recipe. You’ve never made it once. Trips to Grandma and Grandpa Carter where my sister and I and multitudes of visitors and cousins spent the entire time in the pool playing Marco Polo, and wearing a wet path down the slippery metal ladder, through the grass, and in through the squeaking screen door to the freezer for popsicles. Please let there be red or purple left, but no, there is only orange!
Barbeques. Three months of hitting the local swimming pool, reading books, running around the neighborhood, listening to music on the roof in a bikini, slathered in suntan lotion and “Sun in”. If my sister and I didn’t have “Sun in” we poured lemon juice on our heads. Sometimes we took family vacations, went to “real” beaches where we thrilled in riding the ocean waves, but most of the time we had to make do with where we lived and what we had. Amusement parks with bigger and badder rollercoasters, county fairs, outdoor plays, and movies, and concerts. Fourth of July – watching the fireworks from the back of a pickup truck with a paperbag filled with hot popcorn. Activities were fast and furious, and dizzying. But when things did slow down, books were always a great escape for me, and still are. Some people prefer movies or television or video games to escape, I say, give me a good book any day of the week.
But then you grow up, and year by year, that “Kid out of school” feeling becomes a distant memory, and slowly the magic starts to fade. Suddenly, the money to fund all the summer activities is coming straight out of your bank account. You no longer look as good in a bikini as you did when you were sixteen, okay let’s face it, you no longer even wear a bikini, and what swimwear you do dare put on is accessorized with as many cute “cover ups” as you can find, and now you know that tanning isn’t good for you, and “Sun in” will turn your hair into straw. You take that camping trip you’ve been looking forward to and you forget how delectable you are to the mosquitos. Your days off arrive and it either storms, or it’s going to be over a hundred degrees. And then, one day it happens. Summer, you think, is a bummer. And then you get a little panicky. What kind of person doesn’t love SUMMER? It’s here now, but six months from now when snow is piled outside your door and every day is a race to make it indoors before you get frostbite, you are going to wish you had ENJOYED THE SUMMER. So go enjoy it, darn you! It’s very shaming, to feel as if you have to force in all the fun you can in three months. Has life changed since we were kids, or is it simply the filter through which we view it? And despite seeing life for what it is, flaws and all, can we still capture the kid-out-of-school magic? Just a little bit?
Of course, the answer is yes. I’m a firm believer in mini-vacations, or stay-cations. Book a hotel where you live for one evening, and be a tourist. Find the closest beach and stay for a few hours or a few days. I did this recently, and even though it was only one night, all it took was one long walk on the beach to restore a sense of magic again. I dug my toes in the sand, felt the waves trickle over them, and filled my pockets with seashells until they were bulging. I enjoyed a leisurely dinner outside next to the ocean. I bought adorable pieces of glass and perfectly formed seashells in the little gift shop. It was only one day away, but it was enough to taste it, feel it, remember it. Everyone said I was crazy to travel and spend money for just one night away. But it wasn’t crazy, it was life-affirming.
Take a walk wherever you live and notice the signs of summer. Flowers blooming, kids running around, the sun shining—maybe a little bit too much this year! Ah, there’s always something. Wait until it’s not ninety-something degrees, then take a blanket to your favorite park. Pack a little picnic basket. And besides edible treats, what else should be in your basket? A good book, of course!
Summer goes fast, and like the rest of life it has its ups and downs, but there’s still time to squeeze out a little bit of magic. My latest novel, The Things I Do For You, may just give you what you need for a brief get-away. It takes place in a lighthouse on the Hudson River. It’s about love, and renovations, and crazy guests. It’s about the risks we take in life, and how the decisions of those we love can radically alter our lives. I hope you find it funny, and touching, and surprising, and whether your read this novel on a beach, blanket, or boogie board, whether you go far away, or you stay and play, I wish us all the very best of the rest of summer!
THE THINGS I DO FOR YOU Review (if you’re interested in Ivy’s opinion)