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May 29, 2014

NASH: Days of future past

My older children’s school let out last week and I am trying to squeeze some time into their busy schedules to have some family time for all of us. Their summer schedules are filled with activities and there are only a few open dates if we would like to do something together. As I am trying to work around my children’s packed schedules I started to think about the summers of my youth.

First thing that was different is we always knew when summer would start. I graduated high school a few years before it became mandatory to make up snow days. Now kids can’t start summer until they make up that lost time, and parents can’t plan vacations in the first week of June just in case a blizzard hits in January. If we would have had to make up snow days when I was in school, there were a couple of years we wouldn’t have had a summer vacation at all  after some of the brutal winters we had.

My family wasn’t big on summer vacations but we usually did make it to Kings Island every year.   Usually as part of a church outing we would spend a day at the amusement park and ride roller coasters and water rides all day long. My daughter went as part of a school trip a few weeks ago and the stories she told took me back to those day trips we took nearly three decades ago.

As teenagers in the years before cell phones we were given unprecedented freedom while at the park. We were required to meet, under the Eifel Tower every couple of hours to check in but after that we were on own. Usually starting before dawn this was an exhausting day for both children and chaperones that would end well after bed time after the long car trip home. It was on one of these trips that someone ruined “The Empire Strikes Back” for me when they spilled that (spoiler alert) Darth Vader was Luke’s father.

Our summers consisted mostly of trying to find things that we could do to amuse ourselves and to keep us out from under the skins of our parents. I remember one summer the parks department had playground activities at some of the local elementary schools. Living within eyesight of Green Valley School we went there and hung out for a while. We would play games and do craft projects and then there would be a snack. I remember how disappointed I was the year that my parents told me that they weren’t having it anymore. 

I went to school at Green Valley but most of the other kids in our neighborhood went to Holy Family School so summer time was when we would get together.  Wiffle ball was the sport of choice for afternoon games that would usually end when someone hit the ball where no one could get it or it was time for dinner. After dinner we would reconvene around dusk and the game would be “kick the can.” These games would go past dark and were suppose to end when the street light came on, but that was when it was starting to get fun.

Summer nights were always fun especially when I was very little. Our backyard was where all the lightening bugs spent their evenings. I was able to entertain myself for a couple of hours with just a mason jar or coffee can to stow my catch for the evening. Just before it got completely dark was the best time to search and once I saw one I wouldn’t let it slip between my fingers.

One summer when I was a younger teenager I spent much of the summer sleeping on the back porch. With only a sleeping bag and an alarm clock to wake me up so that I could get up and deliver the morning paper. It was quite an adjustment when the week before school started I had to transition back to sleeping in my bed again.

For a few summers I went to church camp for a week during summer.  Most years I went to a camp in Bedford. We spent a week of sports and crafts and Christian worship in the outdoors. My children have followed and look forward to going back to the same camp every year. It is one of their favorite activities in their jam packed summer break. 

My kids have 70 days of summer vacation and then school comes along just to end it. So the annual problem is finding a good way to spend it. Next year my second child will be graduating from high school and then on to college. There aren’t too many summer vacations left with my teenage kids and it’s starting to sink in. Hopefully we can still find some time to enjoy some summer fun together as a family for a few more years.

Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com

 

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