Summer Was Sacred

My brother and I (with ice cream cone) and our cousins

When I grew up in Connecticut in the ’50’s and ’60’s, my father made a good salary, and when school was out for the summer, we could have traveled to California or Florida, seen the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone.  But our summer vacations were more fabulous than that.  Every summer we drove to Ohio to visit my grandparents and cousins.  My brother and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Summer was sacred.  It was not a time to pack in more “stuff” to do.  It was a time to play with the neighborhood kids and build relationships that lasted into the classroom and beyond.  It was a time to use our imagination and creativity because no one was going to entertain us.  It was a time to sleep late and stay out until you were dragged inside in the dark.  You had time to read, time to make up little plays with your friends and perform them for your neighborhood.  You volunteered your mom to make Kool-Ade for the occasion.  There was plenty to do, and if you were bored, it was because you were boring, and you knew it, so you found things to do.

Your big adventure for the summer was going to visit family, especially grandparents if they didn’t live close by.  When you got older, you even were shipped to your grandparents for a week or two before your parents joined you.  No, you didn’t dread going.  You loved sleeping in the attic with the drone of the attic fan running all night, or sleeping in the basement, the coolest spot in the house.  You loved hearing stories about your mother or father or great grandparents you never had a chance to meet.  This time with your grandparents and cousins was a time of bonding that would keep you when you returned home and had to deal with your parents when you messed up or they messed up.  It was a time to get to know who you were and where you came from.  It grounded you, gave you a sense of continuity, not of floating around in space without anchors to the earth.  That time with your grandparents was as important as anything you learned in school.  Even more important.

My grandparents

Would your parents have enjoyed taking a vacation more exotic?  Of course.  But it was unthinkable if it was a choice between visiting family or skipping seeing them for another year.

I am in my 60’s now, and I still look back on those Ohio summers and see them clearly.  They were some of the best summers of my life.  Yes, times certainly have changed.  Summers now are times to cram in every available activity:  soccer, gymnastics, swim camp, theater camp, band camp, and more.  No wonder parents are worn out!  No, I’m not really making a judgment here.  You put your child at a disadvantage if you don’t give your children these summer opportunities when most of their friends and peers are experiencing them.  If we had had those opportunities, our parents would have pursued them, too.  But my heart tells me I’m glad we didn’t.

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About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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28 Responses to Summer Was Sacred

  1. Pingback: Freezing Time | Tuesday2's Blog

  2. tuesday2 says:

    I remember having lemonade stands, planning camp-outs in the Shasta that sat in our driveway, catching fireflies, and -oh yes…putting on plays for the neighborhood (and charging a quarter admission). I loved those summer days! As a teacher, I once again appreciate those summer days; I just need to learn how to recapture the grattitude of the season (and make it last all year long)!

    • Coming East says:

      School districts have also cut into teachers’ summer vacation by requiring workshops and starting their inservices so much earlier, so summer isn’t even sacred for teachers anymore, Tuesday. You are so right about capturing the time and savoring it.

  3. pattisj says:

    Those carefree days are only a memory. My aunt, uncle and cousin traveled to wonderful places every year, and always brought home great souvenirs. My dad wouldn’t go anywhere he couldn’t return the same day–unless it was to my brother’s. He always had a large garden to tend to. I miss the days of climbing an apple tree with a good mystery and hanging out with Nature.

  4. Those were the days, my friend, I thought they’d never end.
    We didn’t go away from the city. It was concrete streets and
    fire hydrants open to cool off from the summer heat. But – it was super fun.
    I used to dread my mothers’ voice calling me home. No one played inside
    unless you were sick or handicapped.
    This was a nice trip down memory lane. It was a very different time. Wasn’t it???
    Nice write … glad you reposted.
    Isadora

  5. Shary Hover says:

    I loved my “lazy” summers. My sister and I played outside almost every day. When it rained, we curled up with a good book. I’d love to have a summer like that again.

  6. I loved summers! Great post. Our summers were spent at the city pool and at the park. We took picnic lunches to my Dad when he was at work. Sweet memories and a wonderful post, thanks for sharing this. DAF

  7. Amy says:

    I was in tears when I was reading your post. Just a week or so ago, while my husband and I were traveling, I thought about the summer time my brothers and I had when we were kids… Thank you for re-posting this beautiful story!

  8. dorannrule says:

    I agree that you should repost this every summer. It’s the way it was and the way it should be – lazy days connecting with people who matter and at the same time, climbing trees, playing outside without intense supervision, being kids with other kids. It’s a wonderful post Susan with pictures perfect, and it brings back so many memories. Thanks! Dor

    • Coming East says:

      I wonder if today’s kids would even enjoy a summer like that? They like to be entertained instead of finding ways to entertain themselves like we did, Dor. They would probably hang around texting each other and playing video games.

  9. Love this post! I only had one set of grandparents growing up and they, fortunately, lived close to us. Summers were about “community” when all of the kids in the neighborhood (regardless of age) would gather after dinner in the back yard for kickball, Mother May I? and stick ball. We would be out until dark when we were all dragged into the house. The first Saturday in August was always the family reunion where generations would gather for a picnic and those stories you mentioned.

  10. What part of Ohio? I’m a lifelong Ohio girl and I’m so glad to hear you have such fond memories! Love that picture – it speaks volumes of that time, doesn’t it?

    • Coming East says:

      My grandparents lived in Dayton. My brother and I were allowed to take the electric bus downtown to Rike’s so we could visit my grandmother where she cooked in the employees’ cafeteria. She loved showing us off. My cousins lived in an area of Dayton called Trotwood. We’d all go to the community pool and swim and buy packages of pretzels at the snack bar. The snack bar would give you a squirt of mustard on the outside of the cellophane. Gosh, I loved going there, Missy. What part of Ohio do you live in?

  11. Huffygirl says:

    Sounds a lot like my summers growing up – lazy days climbing trees, starting to build forts that were never finished, and two visits to Grandma in Chicago. Love the pics too.

  12. Lenore Diane says:

    I am glad you reposted this piece. Though when I think back at 2010 … it seems so long ago. Funny, two years later and your post is still valid. You should repost it every summer. And your last paragraph sums up my thoughts right down to the sentence, “But my heart tells me I’m glad we didn’t.”

  13. I used to love the weeks we spent with my grandparents in Virginia! It was great for us kids to get away, and gave our parents a nice break, too.

    This summer I have absolutely nothing scheduled for the kids. Only soccer and that’s not until late August. This will be the last summer I can spend with them so we’ll just stay home and play and use our imaginations.

    • Coming East says:

      Good for you, Darla! Once the kids get in the upper grades, it’s nearly impossible not to let them participate in all the activities that are offered. I know that from my granddaughters. We are going to get the older granddaughter all to ourselves for a week this summer, thoug, the end of July.

  14. Coming East says:

    Reblogged this on Coming East and commented:

    I just retread my daughter’s latest post on her blog, My Pajama Days, and it reminded me of one I wrote when I first started blogging. I took another look at it and saw only a few people had read it because I was new at this blogging thing. I’ve decided to repost it because it seems appropriate as summer vacation has just begun for most kids in the States, plus I’m finding it hard to come up with blogging topics cooped up in the house with this worthless broken foot. If you’ve read this post before, my apologies.

  15. pajamadays says:

    Ah, yes – my heart is torn here because what I wouldn’t give for an unscheduled summer. But you are right, my children have pursued team sports and interests that require year-long “training” in order to keep up or be competetive. If you take a summer off, you are left behind. That is why it is so important that on our days “off” we just stay home and be bums. Like today.

    Love this post!

    – Emily

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