When I was young, my Mom used to take my brother and me to the public pool when it opened around 10 in morning, then pick us up when it closed around 6. They had a loud boomy speaker, and as our parents arrived at closing time, our names would be yelled out one by one. We would dawdle our way to the car, preferring to stay in the water as long as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I got burned, peeled, then burned again. We didn’t give a damn about sun screen, SPF’s, or what if. We just played.
Those were long days, broken up only by the occasional errand-day or car-trip to my grandparents’ in Virginia. There, summer felt like something else. The smell of chlorine was replaced with the smell of ivy on old brick walls or the odor of freshly caught fish, slung into the boat from the waters of the Rappahannock River. The energy spent flinging myself from the high dive or cartwheeling off the low one, was spent running around with my brother, pulling our wagon over the bumps in the sidewalk where the tree roots pushed it up. Packed sandwiches and Icees gave way to my grandmothers’ amazing cooking. One, classic Southern with Smithfield Hams and homemade pickles. The other, continental or Creole. She was from New Orleans. But even with the change of location, there was a certain beautiful monotony to it. That was, after all, what summer was for.
These are memories I can smell and taste and hear. I wonder, often, what memories my children will have of their summers. We have spent many summers in France, but what is beautiful for one person, isn’t always for another. One man’s relaxing is another man’s boring. I love the long walks and bike rides, the working in the garden, the observing the tiny changes that appear in the landscape and the village from year to year. It’s like a meditation. But that is me.
My Mom was a big believer in boredom. She didn’t go out of her way to keep me busy. She figured it was my job to figure out how to fill my time with my head and my imagination. I remember being so bored it hurt. So listless I wanted to hurt her. (How could she let the precious minutes of my life go by like that?) I am grateful to her now.
And yet, sometimes, it is still hard to be still. Difficult not to pick up the phone or the computer to check the latest polling results. Challenging to take a deep breath and say, It’s OK to be bored. It’s OK to relax. It’s OK not to accomplish anything right this minute.
Is this hard for you? What do you remember of your childhood summers? What did you do to fill your boredom? I wish all of you the summeriest of summers.