I grew up outside Tampa, in a world of endless summer (and I mean that in the worst possible sense). The cycle of the year was one of warm to hot to unbearable, and I am not exaggerating when I relate tales of skidding down the Slip-‘N-Slide on Christmas day or buying Duraflame logs to burn in the dusty, truly pointless fireplace and then cranking the air conditioning down to a dizzyingly expensive 50 or 60 degrees so that we could participate in the joy of the season.
Since moving to Nashville, however, I’ve come to appreciate the coming and going of four distinct seasons, and my feelings about summer have been somewhat redeemed. This year, in particular, I was eager for heat and willing even to brave the swarms of mosquitoes if only I might see green again. But wherever you find yourself, I hope you’ll seize the opportunity to suck the marrow out of this summer, and here are a few essentials to help you on your way.
1. Umbrellas – This may seem an odd place to start, but I discovered the joys of umbrellas by accident. A couple of years ago, my children decided that they wanted to use the money they’d saved in their piggy banks to buy some very cute umbrellas they saw at the store.
I thought this was a terrible idea. Umbrellas seemed all but useless for my then-5-year-old and 2-year-old. We’re not spending a great deal of time sprinting through deluges. Besides, I thought the money would be much better spent on games or toys that they could use any time of day, no matter the weather.
How wrong I was! After the kids bought their umbrellas, they waited impatiently for a rainy day. When it came, I pushed aside all my fears about mud and messes and other things vaguely ominous. I put them in their sandals and helped them open their umbrellas and sent them out the door. They were perfectly elated. They bobbed around the yard, splashing in puddles and having a ball. And ever since that day, when it rains, they see the dreary weather not as a limitation, but an opportunity. It’s warm outside, and they have umbrellas. Oh, the possibilities.
2. Bubbles – Let me urge you to pop for the giant bubble wands…the ones that birth dozens of softball-sized bubbles with each flourish. There are few joys in the world so complete as watching your children bound through the grass, bathed in sunlight, chasing fragile little rainbow globes, and laughing.
3. Seeds – Whether you pop a few into a pot or a Dixie cup, or whether you dive into the cultivation of a large flower garden or vegetable garden, there’s something inexhaustibly wonderful about watching things grow. A seeming nothing transforms into a very evident (and possible tasty or beautiful) something. Children are wise to marvel. And we are wise to remember.
4. Water – You might have an in-ground pool filled with salt water and perched on a cliff overlooking a lush valley. Or, you might be like us and have one or two very filthy broken-down plastic inflatable pools-that-have-now-become-insect-condominiums. You might only have some water guns or water balloons. But honestly, even a leaky garden hose will do. I know this because, while I’m watering the garden, my children are making mud puddles and running wildly through the renegade spray of water that’s escaping from our mangy old hose. They don’t seem to mind, and I’ll gladly wash mud out of their clothes to see their shining faces in the wayward spray.
5. Dribbly Things – Here I’m referring to those delicious summertime treats that nearly always run down your chin and onto your T-shirt. Watermelon is probably the best example. But I’ve seen cantaloupe and strawberries put up a good fight. I wouldn’t argue against ice cream either. Summertimes are for sticky chins.
Here’s to wet, bubbly, sticky, lovely, bright and growing things. Happy Summer, my friends!
I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”