Eighteen Years of Summer Memories:
Snow Cones, Fireflies, and Neighborhood Friends
My grandson enjoying a snow cone! (photo credit – John Cavert)
My daughter recently made a Facebook post about the pressure to make summers for her kids memorable. She gave me permission to share. “I keep seeing the post about only getting 18 childhood summers, and while it’s a good reminder, it is also a lot of pressure. We’re not doing anything major this year, and of course, we didn’t last year either. Vacations and water parks will wait; this summer is snow cone stands and neighborhood playdates and lightning bugs.” Her post made me think about my childhood summers and the eighteen summers I had as a mother with kids at home. What made them memorable?
When I was a kid, I lived for carefree summer days with no school and no schedules. Long, lazy days spent riding my bike, climbing trees, swimming, and reading were what made my summers. We didn’t have air conditioning, so there was little motivation to stay inside when the outside provided shady trees and potential adventures. I remember the thrill of hearing the ice cream truck and scrambling to find enough change to buy a popsicle. My sisters and I would sit on the cement porch steps with our popsicles, purple streams of grape popsicle running down my arms as it melted before I could eat it all.
My sister, brother, and I were crazy about swimming, and we went every chance we could. There was never too much swimming for me! I would spend so much time at the pool my skin would turn several shades darker, and my dark hair would become a chlorinated, almost blonde, straw mess by August. If the pool was closed, we set up the sprinkler in the front yard and took turns running through the sprinkler to escape the heat.
Summer evenings brought meals cooked on the charcoal grill, and then my dad churning the ice cream freezer as we took turns sitting on the lid, “helping” him. As the sun began to set, neighborhood kids would gather to catch fireflies and play games of tag in the front yard before we exhausted ourselves for sleep. My siblings and I often slept on cots on the screened-in back porch, where we could catch a slight breeze as we fell asleep to the sounds of owls and coyotes. When I think of summer, it’s those simple memories I cherish.
A picture of a young me on our front porch steps
I asked my daughters, who are 33 and 34, about their summer memories. Because I was a single mother, our vacations were simple. Based on a teacher’s salary, they usually consisted of a few days at a state park or a visit to family members. It’s not the lack of expensive summer vacations my kids remember. They remember lazy days, lots of time on the computer playing Neopets, and me forcing them to go to the neighborhood pool too often (because I still love swimming!).
Making the most of eighteen summers is a parenting topic trending right now, but don’t let that pressure you. Kids don’t need to be spoon-fed constant excitement or go on expensive exotic trips. The memories they will hold close to their hearts are the ones that occur spontaneously and are simple. What will your kids remember? They will remember the evening the family went to the Gathering Place, and they got fifty cents worth of fish food to feed the beautiful Koi. They will remember the night at the drive-in theatre when they wore their pajamas and fell asleep watching the movie. They’ll remember the nights they sat on the front lawn and ate watermelon and then washed off with the hose.
Some things have changed with time. Most people in Oklahoma have air conditioning, and kids like their screen time now, but some things have stayed the same. Neighborhood kids still gather to catch fireflies and play tag. Swimming remains a great way to spend a hot summer day, and the music of an ice cream truck will always bring kids running. Don’t worry about only having eighteen summers with your kids. It’s like when older women (my age) say things like, “Cherish every minute. It goes by so fast.” Ignore those statements that induce guilt and anxiety. Eighteen summers may seem like not enough, but it’s plenty of time to create a childhood full of good moments and memories.
My granddaughter Sylvia loves the pool! (photo credit – John Cavert)