A Place in the Sun

As schools empty for the summer, if you listen carefully, you can hear the sounds of mothers crying and children shouting for joy. To both groups, three months of summer vacation feels like forever.

In order to make time “pass quickly,” many parents schedule their children’s “vacations” and fill each empty hour, minute and second of every day. Science camp, wilderness survival, moon exploration—parents glom onto any opportunity to make sure their kids don’t retreat into a summer stupor. Children are challenged to keep up their math and reading skills, and are asked to study every day. I don’t call that a vacation. I call that . . . well, I call it school.

When I was a young ‘un, several decades ago, summertime smelled like grape Kool-Aid and root beer popsicles. Summer Vacation was a proper noun that began the day school let out and ended in September on the first day of school. Yes, I still had to attend family reunions, suffer through church and take baths, but summer was my friend—and we spent every moment together.

Not far from my home in Murray was an empty field; several acres of trees, paths and even a marsh I was forbidden to approach. But it wasn’t just an empty field. Some days it was an enchanted forest, other days it was a magical castle, but most of the time it was the set for a Nancy Drew mystery like The Secret in the Abandoned Field or The Clue in the Fallen Log.

Each morning I ate my breakfast of Cheerios and sugar, cinnamon toast with sugar and grapefruit segments dipped in sugar. Then I’d stuff a paper bag with sandwiches, soda, cookies and a transistor radio, and jump on my bike to meet my friends in the field.

There were no cell phones, no way to “check in” with mom every hour. She just waved us off, locked the doors and let us back in at dinnertime. We could only come home early if we had lost a limb or REALLY had to go to the bathroom. Little did we know there was an intricate mom network tracking our every move. My mother received a phone call from our neighbor when we arrived at the field, and when we left. And if we got too close to the marsh. And if suspicious boys were hanging around.

But, at the time, we were blissfully unaware—and totally free.

If one of us had extra change, we’d stop at Mr. G’s for boxes of Boston Baked Beans, Hot Tamales or Lemon Heads (we had to keep our sugar levels up), and we’d often end up at a park, just watching the clouds float by.

Staring at the TV all day wasn’t an option. Daytime television was soap operas and game shows—and my mom wouldn’t allow it. But that was okay. Nothing beat bike rides, Slurpees and reading a book under a tree.

Every day was unplanned and lasted until it was too dark to see. As September rolled around, we tried to extend every day as long as possible. We started the first day of school with sunburns, road rash, skinned knees and reluctance.

Now, a church sits on our empty field. The trees and paths, and the marsh, are gone. But I often wonder, as people stroll to their Sunday school classes, if they ever walk through a pocket of pure joy left over from the time when that land belonged to us kids during our Summer Vacation.

A Place in the Sun

Perilynn

Kearns, United States

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

Summer Vacation—Old-school

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