Finally, Summer

By Liz, grateful for three-day weekends and warm weather

It was a really lovely Memorial Day weekend here in New England. Sun, warm weather – everything that a summer-loving girl could ask for. While I was out walking the dogs in the forest they like and getting some sun on my rooftop patio, I thought a lot about what this weekend always meant.

As a kid, Memorial Day was the gateway to summer – my grammar school always had a Memorial Day concert outside behind the buildings, on some little makeshift bleachers that we stood on. Our parents came and sat on matching bleachers to dutifully watch our (probably terrible) singing. And usually that concert was on one of our last days of school. This was back when school actually got out in early June, unlike today when school can go on almost until July…but I digress.

Memorial Day was always special for our family too. My grandfather, who was literally my favorite person, had served for a short time in the military before a knee injury took him out of the game. In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about that and how disappointed he was – and later, how his entire troop was killed in combat. That knee injury changed the course of history.

My grandfather was always proud of the time he served, and I knew he wished he could’ve done more. He and my grandmother both volunteered during WWII, moving across the country to do so. It was a way for them to give back and show their support, and it was something they spoke about their entire lives.

So of course when Memorial Day came around, it was a time for us to honor him. His birthday was also in May, so we used to do it up right. My grandparents would come over to our house on Memorial Day weekend, and my father would barbecue. Since it was a special occasion, my mother would also get my grandfather’s favorite – lobster. I remember him being happier on those days than any other time, with his lobster bib tucked into the front of his shirt, offering me the caviar from the lobster he would scrape clean. (At that age, I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever.)

And then, it was summer. School was out, the windows and doors were always open at my house, and my dad was home to hang with. My grandparents would come visit nearly every day for a morning coffee break. The pool was open (we had an above-ground pool where I learned to swim) and my mother’s garden was in full swing. There were beach days, frequent trips to the ice cream shop, days spent riding my bike around the neighborhood and picking wild blackberries in the woods behind my house. The Monkees was always on reruns on TV, making for a nice break during lunch or when it got too hot to play outside.

And in the evenings, late, lazy dinners outside, summer thunderstorms, friends visiting. Lots of books to read. Everything moving at a slower, happier pace.

My summers now are full of work, deadlines, dogs, and all kinds of adultish things that don’t stop once the weather hits 90 and the beach is beckoning. This year, I’m promising myself that I’m going to enjoy it more, I’m going to spend time at the beach reading all the books I haven’t gotten to all year long, and being grateful that I’m on this planet to experience another summer.

But those first few moments of summer every year always bring back the sweetest of memories of those long-ago days. I hope that feeling keeps coming back every year to remind me of what summer should be.

Readers, what are your favorite summer memories?

13 Thoughts

  1. I love these memories, Liz. Was your father a teacher? I remember making a milkshake in the heavy old blender and taking it outside in a metal mug to read under a tree. Picking apricots and peaches from our trees for a snack. Swim lessons in the high school pool and getting an ice cream sandwich afterwards. Staying at the beach until dark and building a bonfire in the sand. Camping in the Sierras. Easy bliss.

  2. What lovely memories, Liz.

    I remember trips to country cousins in upstate New York where we hiked for hours through the woods, and trips to Florida cousins where we played on the beach, visited the Crandon Park Zoo and the Miami Seaquarium. In those days, South Florida was a small southern town and my memories always involve being barefoot and eating ice cream. Then there was the Jersey Shore, sand dunes, and jumping the waves in water far colder than anything we knew from Florida. Just slow, lazy, days that seemed to last as long as the school year.

  3. This was lovely, Liz. I grew up in a small Maine town where we could roam. And roam we did, to the lake, in the woods and fields. Explored an abandoned building or two. Went swimming every day. Found tiny wild strawberries and ate them. Traveled along stone walls. Remember summer thunderstorms too, watching the cloud castles build. The coziness of being in bed while they boomed overhead. We’d go to the coast a few times, play on the rocks while breakers crashed. Or venture into the icy water. Remember fresh corn on the cob. Maine blueberry pie. Homemade ice cream. The taste of summer.

  4. I remember laying out on the warm driveway after dark and staring up at the stars. Going swimming and buying a frozen Snickers after. Collecting pop bottles from the numerous houses that were being built in our neighborhood and taking them to the store in our red wagon to exchange them for candy cigarettes. Playing jailbreak a kind of flashlight tag after dark. The days seemed endless.

  5. Growing up, there was always another full month of school after Memorial Day, so the start of “summer” really didn’t feel like it.

    I remember my grandfather planting his vegetable garden around Memorial Day. We did the parade thing, visited veterans’ graves at the local cemetery. But most importantly to a young girl, it was my signal that only one more month of school remained!

  6. My favorite summer memories involve camping and swimming. Not necessarily at the same time, but sometimes. And, of course, reading.

    I’m jealous of your warm temps. I was running in 50’s and in between rain showers on Sunday. Winter weather! But it’s supposed to hit the 80’s and stay there starting tomorrow (but with their track record for predicting temps, I’m guessing we will hit that high today).

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