Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Last Rows of Summer by Grace Burrowes

I used to hate summer.
As much as I also hated school as a kid, and loved unstructured time, summer was when my parents would uproot the entire family and drag us 2700 miles each way out to San Diego so my dad could do science with his buddies at UCSD.

What good is summer for a kid who has no one to play with, no woods to play in, no trees to climb, no local library to raid, no piano to practice, and nothing but the beach (every chubby little girl loves the beach, right) for diversion?

Southern California can be as much fun as any other place, I suppose, but as a kid, summer loomed for me as  the great ramble, the endless picnic, the reading orgy, the imaginative flight that lasted for weeks. Those summers away from home (yes, we went for the ENTIRE summer), were an abomination against summer.  Except for the year my brother Tom took up surfing, I'm pretty sure my siblings would agree with me.

Fortunately, I'm grown up now (most days). Summer is as productive as winter for me as a writer. In winter, the productivity results from all the bad weather, holidays and long weekends between Veteran's Day and President's Day. I fill up the wood stove, wrap up on my tartan blanket, brew a pot of tea, park myself before the computer, and let 'er rip. The words pile up thick and fast, and that creates even more forward momentum.

In summer, there are also holidays, but the primary advantage is the sheer length of the daylight. By 5 am, the birds are singing, and light is creeping over the mountain. If I go down to the computer that early, I don't have to wrassle the woodstove, find my fingerless gloves, or compete with the dogs for the use of my foot rug.

The alpha brain waves are still wafting about when I've first arisen, and all is new and wonderful. I can write anything I want to write, and nobody can make me go to California if I don't want to.
Bliss.

In many ways, I'm the same person I was fifty years ago. I want to be the boss of me, and now that I can be to a greater extent, summers are more wonderful than ever.

Were your childhood summers wonderful? A mix? A boring slog? Are they better now, the same or not as much fun? To two commenters, I'll send signed copies of The Captive, my July release.

  

55 comments:

  1. My childhood summers were spent at the beach. We would pack up the red station wagon with chairs, towels, food and toys and head out for the day! I remember running, playing and swimming and just being a kid.

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    1. I think that's exactly what my mom intended for us as we were dragged to beach day after day--unstructured fun, a good dose of Vitamin D, some exercise. For me it was crowds, boredom, sunburns, and sand flies. I'm still not a great appreciator of the beach, though I do appreciate my mother's good intentions.

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  2. Because we lived on a farm, summer was no vacation, instead of going to school, there were endless chores to be done. Only difference was sweating and hot, and there are only so many clothes you can take off to get cool, and in winter you can add more clothes to keep warm. Love your books, now I have plenty of time to read !!!!

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    1. I'm pretty sure I owe my college education to an old square bailer that had no thrower on it. I was the thrower and the stacker and then the unloader when we got it to the mow. I hear you about the work... nothing less fun than chasing the cows when they'd AGAIN busted through the fence, unless it was tramping through the nettles and poison ivy to find the hole they'd made.

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  3. My. Summers were good. My dad only got a couple of weeks off, so we wouldn't travel much. But playing outside and reading all day was awesome

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    1. And reading outside more awesome still. There are trees that should be designated "reading trees."

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  4. Mine were a mix. Are only vacation was 2 weeks in August when we would go to the Upper Michigan to the family cabin. Sounds fun...not. It was surrounded by forest, bugs big enough to carry you away and the threat of bears and other wild animals. We had to stay in the yard unless my dad was with us. It was boring for 4 kids with nothing to do but play in the dirt. My mother was thrilled the year they put in a public pool at the local high school. Then at the end of the day we'd be tired and ready for sleep.
    Now as an adult I can see the tranquil life in the middle of a forest and would love to spend 2 weeks there but sadly my dad sold it years ago.
    My husband grow up with a lake house to spend his summers at and loved every minute of it.

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    1. I moved to the country when my daughter was eighteen months old, then looked around and about had a heart attack. Poison ivy, a running stream, poison oak, bugs, snakes, the occasional loose steer from across the road.... Maybe Nintendo isn't all bad?

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  5. My family loved to camp. We would spend as much time as possible in the Smokey Mountains.

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    1. I have a nice, if chilly, memory of camping in the Grand Tetons with my family on one of our cross country trips. It got so cold we all ended up in the car--or maybe it was the howling wolves that sent us back into the car?

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  6. Summers were awesome when I was a kid. We were always out doing something; swimming in the pool, going to amusement parks, bike riding, rollerblading, etc :-) now they're kind of boring with work and all. Every once in awhile I'll get to a concert or something, but not often enough

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    1. Sounds like your summers need a dose of all the fun you had as a kid. the few times my daughter got me to a roller rink, I DID have fun--careful fun, that is.

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  7. Loved summers as a kid, we lived in Phila. and would take an occasional day trip to NYC to see the sights and also to Ocean City NJ. I was a beach bunny from the start and can't get enough of the ocean. Now summers are just like every other day, if I win the lottery- HA- will buy a house in FL!!!

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    1. There's something to be said for city kids. They learn how to get around, how to get out and about and see the sights. My dad grew up on Long Island and was taking the train to Philly by himself at a much younger age than I would have allowed my daughter to do the same thing.

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  8. My summers were a mix. I loved all the spare time to read....but I hated having to help pull weeds in the garden. And for the first four years I played, I hated softball as well - I was forced to play because my aunt was the coach:) As I grew older, my softball feelings were mixed...I liked the game OK, but I hated the time commitment. I wanted my cousins to come visit, and as they got older, their softball commitments kept them away :( Summer was the time for cousins. We lived close to my Grandparents, so all of the out-of-state cousins could be counted on to visit at some point. That part was awesome.
    Currently, I love summer for the unstructured free time I have (I'm a high school teacher.) I'm not a fun of the current hot, dry summers we've been experiencing in Kansas, but I can live with them.

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    1. I've wondered what teachers think of year round school. Yes, it helps the underprivileged, but after ten months mostly on my feet, on duty hour after hour, I'd sure want a nice long stretch to decompress if I were a teacher.

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  9. My summers were always fun. My parents were divorced so when I spent time with my dad we would always do fun stuff and I got to spend time with my grandparents!!

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    1. And sometimes, the grandparents are MUCH better at having fun than the parents.

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  10. The only part of summer that was different for me was the fact that I didn't have to go to school. I still had to clean the house and take care of my younger brother. I just finished Worth last night, stayed up late to do so, then read the tiny excerpt from The Captive and am now anxiously awaiting it's release.

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    1. I'm anxiously awaiting The Captive's release, too, Molly! You remind me that for many working parents, all summer means is increased day care expenses. Sad.

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  11. My childhood memories of summer can be defined I one word... FREEDOM! I loved the summers and all the adventures that came with it. My 'big brother' introduced me to the woods in the area and all the nature that went with it. I learned about tadpoles and frogs, and insects, and small animals. We swam in the creeks and walked along the train tracks....collected discarded soda bottles for the 2 cent refunds! I learned much about life during that time of freedom. In the last decade or so I have vacationed with my kids and granddaughter. Our favorite spot is the beach, usually in the southern part of Florida.

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    1. Freedom, and a time to let the imagination order the day. Schooling is very important, but I also believe the ability to find your own fun makes a big difference in life. Summer was when I honed that skill, and it's what's paying most of my bills now.

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  12. I thought summer was pretty boring after I moved to Texas. In Michigan, we rode our bikes everywhere and played outside until dark and went camping, but it's too hot to be outside in Texas. I do not like summer as an adult. I have to sign Princess Galen up for all these camps and the schedule is all messed up and I can't remember where she is supposed to be. Just give me routine, please. When is fall? Why does spring have to end?

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    1. When I did divorce mediation, the summer parenting schedule was often a snafu, with one parenting dazed and bewildered, "What am I supposed to do with the kids for two straight weeks?" And the other parent exasperated with that lack of insight. Summer is TEN weeks most places, and those weeks only get longer if the kids are bored.

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  13. I loved school (I'm a total geek and love learning, but hated the social torture), but I loved summer even more. I grew up with my grandparents down the street, my friends' houses within biking distance, and a wonderful library I could walk to. Best of all, my grandparents had a pool, and my friends would come over and we'd laze away the entire summer on our beach towels, radio blasting, reading books and snacking on potato chips or Oreos, jumping in if the heat got to be too much. I was also a chubby girl, but only those I could trust to not care one bit were allowed to share in my paradise!

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    1. Where was your grandparents' back yard when I and many of my peers needed it? Sounds like a dose of heaven, because I do enjoy swimming and always have.

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  14. The only vacations my family took when I was a child were our annual treks to my grandparents' farm in Pennsylvania for the July 4th family reunion. Since I was the "baby," I always had to sit in the front seat between mom and dad. (boo!) My older siblings got to sit in the back - I was so jealous. The farm was pretty primitive, there was a red pump in the kitchen for water, an outhouse (no bathroom, just chamber pots.) I remember the cornfields, climbing trees, berry picking, chickens, and a million relatives. It was a great time for a kid from the city. Fun memories to look back on. bonnieblue at wowway dot com

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    1. That does sound like fun, though I'm still not too crazy about that two-seater at the back of the hog house.

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  15. I remember my parents taking us all to the beach. We had such fun! The food always tasted better no matter what we were eating. Wonderful memories!

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    1. Summer is my favorite time to eat hot dogs. It just IS, because you're right: They taste better when eaten at a picnic table or on a picnic blanket.

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  16. I loved summers as a child. No responsibilities and being able to sleep in and play all day. I miss those lazy days of summer.

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    1. You point out another positive aspect of summer: No sleep deprivation. I wonder how many of us truly thrive on a "get up a six five days a week no matter what" schedule as children. I HATED it.

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  17. Mom always tried to give us something to enjoy about summer. Taking us to the pool, visiting family in Florida, or just a picnic and trip to the beach even though she hated the beach. She knew we loved it so being the wonderful mom she was she tolerated it for us.

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    1. You hope many moms and dads are that wonderful, because a summer is a terrible thing to have to endure. I recall some picnics that happened by Maternal Decree, and they were a nice way to make fun without leaving home.

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  18. My summers were a mix. I lived in southern California until I was 10. Some days mom would push us outside and we'd run around all day (some of those days I'd smuggle out a book and hide and read). Other days we weren't allowed to be outside at all because of a smog alert. Mom didn't want us breathing in the polluted air.

    We moved to Georgia and went from a home in a subdivision to a home on about 5 acres. Half of it was full out woods. When I wasn't reading we stayed very busy.

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    1. If you were on five acres in Georgia, you were sharing that real estate with tons of flora and fauna. Who could be bored with her own personal woods?

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  19. they were fun

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. Glad to hear that. Hope they still are!

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  20. Yes, you are the boss of you now and can do what you want. Including remembering all the times that didn't seem so great when they were happening, right? I remember lots of trips, hanging with cousins and friends and reading late into the night. Enjoy and stay safe--and keep writing!

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    1. Some times I'd read ALL night during the summer, or go for a ramble at 5 am just as dawn was breaking. Marvelous!

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  21. Definitely fun. I really enjoy those lazy summers!

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    1. I think we all need down time, and not just a weekend here or there. I look forward to the winter because there's so much of that stay-home, do as you please, time for most of us.

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  22. We didn't do much in the summer (no real vacations) but that had it's good points - lots of trips to the library and summer reading. And I did like the outdoors. And, of course, no homework lol. But I was usually ready to go back to school in the fall.

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    1. Not me. I'd count the days, and by August first, I was in an anticipatory funk. Shopping for back-to-school clothes was THE WORST.

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  23. I enjoyed my childhood summers. Most of our summer was spent on our boat fishing and swimming. My dad was a charter boat captain so we were always on the water. We did do some of the usual kids trips to Disney, but the trips on the boat were the best.

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    1. Sounds delightful, and like the basis for a really cool middle grade or YA series.

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  24. all were pretty good (tho I only remember snippets of the early years). First five summers were a week or two at the Jersey Shore, then camping vacations. But I'll never forget summer #9 when my appendix burst and I was in the hospital for 3 weeks! Summers after that I remember going to Girl Scout daycamp for a couple weeks. I don't think I was ever bored because between being active I loved to read as many books as I could get my hands on.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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    1. Di, a ruptured appendix is nothing to sneeze at. My dad nearly checked out because his appendix burst, and my great-grandmother died of the resulting peritonitis when she suffered the same misery. Hooray for hospitals and antibiotics, and never having to do THAT again.

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  25. I teach summer school, so my summers are busy; not as busy as the regular school year. When my children were little, it was always hectic with their schedules.

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    1. That is a thankless, saintly job. Many kids would lose an entire year but for summer school, or fail to graduate all together. Well done, you.

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  26. Well my summers were spent playing at the beach since I grew up in Southern California, actually in Oceanside which is not far from San Diego. :D I enjoyed all the reading time the most and made many trips to the library. My summers now aren't too bad, besides having to work, since I live alone I can do anything I want, and I usually want to read as much as I can.

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  27. For me as a child though I hate the cold summer was a love hate relationship. with strict parents and being a not so pretty or popular girl my summers were stuck on the farm working for my mother from sun up to sun down we were always doing something chores wise. but I did get to go on trail rides through the woods at times bare back and pick wild pears and black berries when I could escape tending my siblings and cousins. I would also bale hay every few weeks for a family friend. summers had elements of fun but also lonesome. When I was really lucky my granny would send for me and I would get to travel to Michigan to be with the family and my cousins. I loved it there most of all.

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  28. My summers in Eastern Washington were hot, too. I much preferred the ones when I was more grown-up in Alaska. Except for the mosquitoes that were the size of helicopters, I loved Alaskan summers. You mentioned the length of daylight, in Alaska it's stretches forever. BTW, have read and reviewed the captive. I love it. But it made my heart hurt!

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  29. Summers of raking hay and helping out on the farm. But I loved every minute of it! Not much time for friends - but my brothers and I always played together. :)
    lattebooks at hotmail dot com

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  30. I don't remember a lot about my childhood summers, but we did go to the beach a lot, which I loved! When I was in high school, we used to ride our bikes all over & play tennis.

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