Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Summer break time

I remember summer break from when I was a kid. I get that most kids now - heck, probably many when I was a kid - did not have experiences comparable to mine.

For one thing, I was lucky enough to have a stay-at-home parent (my mom), so no kind of "caretaking" had to be arranged for me, nor did I have to stay indoors and not answer the door or the phone (as sometimes happens to "latchkey" kids when they are home and their parent or parents are at work).

The first few days were the best: the change from the routine of school, the feeling that summer was like an entire blank page you could write your own adventure on.

(Later on, it did get a little wearying for me to be out of a schedule - one of the reasons I have taught so many summers is that I understand that I need purposeful things to do in order to be happy).

Also, where and when I grew up, summers were cooler than they are here. I remember those perfect early-summer days: in the low 70s, with low humidity. In the morning, when you got up, the air had almost a crispness to it. It was  a different SORT of crispness from fall air - it was more a feeling that somehow the world had been made new overnight, and you were breathing "new air" for the first time.

(That's one of the biggest things I miss about summers here: it does not cool down at night and often it stays humid, so the air retains all of its stink and funk and it does, in fact, feel kind of vitiated. Once in a while, in late spring, we do get one of those "made-new" mornings and it's glorious, and it makes me wish we had that more often).

The other thing was a big amount of open time to just do nothing with. One thing I am not so good at as an adult is doing "nothing"- I was pretty good at it as a kid, skipping rocks on ponds or poking mud with sticks or running around with my friends. You didn't have to be "productive," you were a kid. Playing was what you did and it didn't matter that you had "nothing" to show for it at the end of the day. (Sometimes I think that's one of the worst things about the working world; the feeling that you need to "have" something for the time you spent. I'm sure part of it is tied up in the "play is fun and work is work" idea, and also part of it is that adults have to somehow "earn" their place on this earth; apparently kids get one just by being kids or something).

When I was smaller (like, 11 and under) summers really were the best. A couple of years I went to day camp with a friend of mine, but that wasn't all summer, and it was only 4 or 5 days (I forget which) a week, and only in the mornings. We played tennis and swam and did crafts and worked on skits and sometimes had huge, campus-spanning games of Capture the Flag, and Capture the Flag really is an excellent game when you have big groups of kids and a really big place (and a place with a lot of hiding places) to play it in.

Day camp took place at "The Academy" (Western Reserve Academy), where I later went to prep school. I don't know now if they ran it or if they rented the gym area (where we had our activities - we used the old pool that was replaced when I was in high school, and the tennis courts where I later played "C Squad Tennis" and a little garage area was for arts and crafts). I wonder now if maybe some of the adults were teachers or wives of teachers, but combing my brain doesn't turn up any memories, and I don't remember any of my high-school teachers going "Hey, didn't you do Arts and Crafts with me in the summers when you were a kid?"

Also, it was an all-girls' camp. I don't know if the boys' session met elsewhere, or if it was an afternoon camp, or if their session was a later time in the summer. I realize now - it never seemed odd to me that it was an all-girls' camp, like "where are the boys and where is their day camp?"

(Now that I think of it - maybe they were on the other side of campus? Maybe once or twice we played a big, camp-wide game of hide-and-seek or something?)

I dunno. In a lot of ways my childhood was pretty idyllic, at least away from school - a couple of my friends went to Day Camp and there were girls from other schools and I seemed pretty able to avoid the "mean girls" who tormented me at public school. Maybe the "mean girls" didn't get to go to Day Camp? Or maybe I was good enough at enough stuff (arts and crafts, especially, and some of the stuff in the skits we did) that I got some of the other kids' respect? Or maybe, because it was summer and we were away from school, there was some kind of weird truce in place, I don't know. I just remember being more happy and more social there. (Then again: day camp was also before things got REALLY bad at school, that is, junior high.)

I was never that good at tennis but none of us were, so that was okay. And I was pretty good at things like hide and seek and Capture the Flag because I was pretty fast as a little kid, and I was also good at being stealthy.

And swimming. At first I wasn't so good because a bad experience in earlier swimming lessons (being thrown in the deep end of the pool by a bad instructor) made me afraid of deep water, but one summer one of the counselors (an older woman, and I wish I remembered her name) said she was going to work with me to try to help me get over the fear. (It was BAD. I wouldn't even swim through the deep end even though I was a competent swimmer and there was no likelihood I would drown, but phobias are illogical by definition). She did work with me and by the end of that session I was able to swim through the deep end and even jump off the edge of the pool into the deep water. (I still am not that comfortable going off diving boards, but that doesn't matter now).

It's one of those things I was afraid of as a kid that I barely remember being afraid of now - I swam JV in high school and the "deep end" didn't matter at all to me.

Outside of summer camp, there was Library Book Club (and it makes me happy to know, even in this age, that some libraries still do them much in the same way). And there were crafts to make and toys to play with and sometimes I helped my mom in her garden and sometimes the King kids across the street arranged a game of H-O-R-S-E or flag football or something and everyone that was around would play. Or sometimes my friend Elizabeth and I would get together and walk down to the stream and try to catch frogs or look for jewelweed where we could pop the fruits....

1 comment:

purlewe said...

I love hearing your memories about summer. Camping was important to me. either day camp or overnight. I am so glad you had fun there.