Summer is here, and no matter how many years pass, I still associate summer with the freedom and chaos that came with summer break from school.
I refused to go to camp, and instead read a book a day and rode my bike all around the neighborhood. I slept late and loved being alone. I also loved sleepovers with my friends, but most of them went to sleepaway camp, which I’d never even consider. Summers my brother and I took the bus with my grandmother down to her sister’s place on the South Jersey shore. We walked the beach and the boardwalk and swam in the pool. When I was older, I’d bring a friend and we’d stay up late on the beach, in the dark, with beers we got older kids to buy us. But more than anything, summer meant staying up as late as I wanted, reading and reading and reading.
This week, we asked Entropy contributors to share their strongest, fondest, sweetest, and messiest summer memories. The stories below are varies and beautiful examples of being a child in summertime.
Summer was slumber parties at the stable with the other horse girls- the most fun! We’d visit the horses in the middle of the night, tell ghost stories, and the owners of the stable, who lived on the property, would set up scary things for us to find. We were all girls, ranging in age from 8-16, the ultimate in sweet, goodclean fun.
I was 13….stayed up all night late July waiting for a possible thunderstorm to come all the way to the San Fernando Valley from Arizona….the afternoon before now dead into night had a dust storm in Phoenix….It arrived 4 a.m on a hot humid and still night….I saw it approach in my t shirt and goofy shorts…..veined with lightning……it rained hot drops and one moment the whole sky turned day bright then flash bulb ….my body tingled……then the rain grew heavy…poured until it drifted west… it died on the shore before sunrise
I’m a huge weather nerd…was going to be scientist but math….they were almost friends to little me…….camp was a fun story….we were the bad news bears…..the kid above me loved hearing my stories so much that each night he dug a hole in his mattress to hear…then it got so big he fell through….and one kid dug a porthole in the door to see birds and stuff…and someone played catch with pinecones and hit a window…….I was so shy it was all just nice to go with my then best friend and not sit reading.
I participated in the Ojai Shakespeare Festival’s summer internship program seven summers in a row until the end of high school. It was great–we had tech roles in the night show (the main production, with an adult cast), and we got our own matinee show, too, which grew in size and importance each year. My first year, our production of Twelfth Night was three flimsy flats set up in the middle of the grass. By the time we did The Tempest, we had shared the main stage with the adult show and had our own set pieces we got to change out before and after each performance. I grew up with that program, both in acting–I went from one-line bit parts (Fabian in Twelfth Night) to starring roles (Benedick, Caliban)–and in those standard teenage milestones.
A few months after I turned 13, I abandoned my original plan to live alone in a cave in Alaska with a set of encyclopedias and some biographies. My new plan was to learn how to scuba dive and to live underwater. My father—who was going through a very literal phase—offered me a book written by Jacques Cousteau as if to say, maybe that will hold him for a while. I was also fairly heavy into bike riding. Each day I pedaled as far from home as I could in search of swimming pools outside my neighborhood. I wasn’t a great swimmer and was always trying to swim where no one recognized me. The only thing I knew how to do was hold my breath and maneuver around. It made me feel weightless. My scuba class started in mid-June. We kicked so hard. It was the first time I’d ever broken a sweat swimming, an unusual warming sensation. I was the youngest in the group by at least a generation. Most were couples, a few older men, one darkly tanned man about 25 with beautiful long hair. We fooled around a lot, a game where you snuck up behind someone and twisted his j-valve to impede the oxygen flowing into his regulator. They got me all the time, and I never did that to anyone else. It was such an intimate thing, a j-valve, and swimming furtively towards someone’s intimacy sent me into a panic. A woman asked me once why I never shut off her oxygen, said it was all right. Next time, I assured her. But I never did. Still, I loved the hyper-ventilation, the free-ness, the fussing over Boyle’s Law, the idea of atmospheric pressure, the showering afterwards with adults who had body hair. I wrote a long letter about it to my Uncle Turner in San Antonio. Towards the end of the summer there was a knock on our door and Uncle Turner and Aunt Jess, and cousins Dick and Anne from Louisiana stood on our threshold. “We’ve come to see your son living underwater,” he said, to my shocked mother.
I grew up in a campground and when I was 8-11 years old, at night, me and some random kids who were on vacation would sneak off into the Pine Barrens and hunt for the New Jersey Devil, which is kind of like New Jersey’s bigfoot. Lots of campground memories, including climbing up on top of the bathrooms and looking down through the skylights at girls taking showers.
I remember a summer in college: a beach house (shack) with no interior walls, eight other girls, one bathroom. We were a block from the water, and there was sand in everything. We had ridiculous boyfriends, cruiser bikes and surfer hair. We worked in bars, in fish-related service industries or were lifeguards. I binge-read Vonnegut and Thompson. Nowadays, when I hear the word “chaos” used with abandon, I think: You don’t even know.