I was driving down the street and when I stopped at the stop sign, three young kids (probably teenagers) were sitting at the curb. It brought back memories of when my friends and I would pass the summer days sitting on a curb, or on a stoop, talking.
We’d talk, and eventually argue, about almost anything. Baseball. Movies. Girls. We’d talk and we’d laugh and I have wonderful memories of those summer days.
Except these kids weren’t talking. They were on their phones, probably texting with other friends, or watching videos. They were together, in-person, but they seemed so alone. They looked glum and miserable. That’s no way to spend your summer vacation.
Summer Vacation. What a remarkable pair of words when you’re a kid. By the time you’re 11 or 12 it feels like you’ve been going to school for years and the words summer vacation were enough to get you excited.
Summer was when you got to stay out a little later, playing wiffle ball in the street or tag. It was when you lost track of the weekdays, and you felt like you had a million days before your next school day. It was a big, giant taste of freedom.
We didn’t have a lot of money, but we didn’t need it. I remember going into Reap’s Candy, on 95th and Jamaica, and buying a small foam glider for 5 cents, it was shaped like a WW2 fighter.
We played with and battered that little plane around for days. We climbed the steps leading to the J and set it sail from up there, and watched it glide almost all the way to 96th Street.
That was the best nickel I ever spent.
I remember the excitement of packing the car and driving to the Catskills for a few days, the thrill of getting out, of going away.
It was fun seeing all the little differences in other places; the different newspapers; the strange new supermarkets and products. And all the television stations were on different channels.
We visited the local attractions, the Catskill Game Farm, Carson City, etc. And we got one of those bumper stickers that said “This Car Climbed Hunter Mountain!”
Then it was back home and back to the wiffle ball and chasing each other around the playground, and running through the sprinklers. We used to run through Forest Park playing Army, small sticks standing in for rifles and pistols
And some days, when it was really too hot to run around, you just sat with your friends and debated who would win in a motorcycle race, The Fonz or Evel Knievel. (The answer is The Fonz, because Knievel kept crashing).
It was such a wonderful time of our lives, a break from the routine and a chance to enjoy doing little or next to nothing.
And if you could go back and enjoy just one more summer vacation like that, you would cherish and savor each and every one of those summer days because you know that once you start working, it’s never the same.
It’s a subtle change in nomenclature, but everything changes when “Summer Vacation” becomes simply Summer. How would you explain that to your 12-year old self?
It’s like a working vacation. The weather is nice but you can’t enjoy it on weekdays too much because you have to get up early for work the next day.
You hope you can sit outside this weekend but only if it doesn’t rain. You don’t have the luxury of wasting your days off because you have so few of them. You’ve got a week off next month but you’ve already made plans to do work around the house.
You’ve got responsibilities. If you aren’t worrying about the bills you’re worrying about your health. Your body hurts and things don’t come as easy as they once did. It’s all part of being an adult.
If you’re not there yet, if you’re at the age where you still get Summer Vacation, brace yourselves, because things don’t get better from here. These are the best days of your lives.
So try to savor them, try to enjoy every day. Put down your phones, get out and enjoy your life. Laugh with your friends and run and jump and have a great time. Because before you can blink, it will all be over.