The other day Leo asked us Frisky staffers a question about where we spend our summer vacations, which got me reminiscing about summers past and daydreaming of my upcoming trips. I grew up overseas (my parents were/are educators at schools on U.S. military bases), and my family spent summers at my maternal grandparents’ house in St. Louis. My memories are laced with rides down the Mississippi River on my aunt and uncle’s boat, swapping ghost stories with my grandfather in the backyard at dusk, sleepovers with my cousins, eating Grandma’s fried chicken, and taking lots of road trips with my parents all over the country. I loved summers not just for the time off from school, but because it was the only time of year I got to see my extended family whom I loved so much (especially my grandparents) and for two months out of the year, I got to be a “normal” American with cable TV, malls, and fast food burger joints. It was just like in the movies! I could write a whole book — and maybe I will someday — about what those summer vacations meant for me, how they were the one bit of stability that stayed constant through my very unstable, pretty turbulent, unique upbringing. By the time I finally moved to the States for college, I’d lived in three different countries (none of them English-speaking), nine different homes (including a hotel room my family lived in for a year), and attended six different schools. But through that whole time — and until my mid-20s — my grandparents lived in the same home, the same home my mother and her siblings were raised in and the same home where I spent almost every single summer growing up. It wasn’t glamorous or unique or anything to write home about, but it was bursting with love and more personal history than any photo album or keepsake box I have now. The day I drove away from that house for the last time, a few weeks before my aging grandparents sold it and moved to a smaller, much more manageable apartment on the other side of town, I felt like I was watching the last bit of my childhood slip away. I was 24 and moving to Chicago and in with a boyfriend for the first time. Life was certainly changing.
These days I still spend a little time in St. Louis during the summer, though it’s more like a long weekend instead of two months. My grandparents are still alive, though my dad’s parents whom we spent a week or two with in Illinois each summer are long gone. I haven’t been on a boat ride down the Mississippi in over a decade; my 80-year-old grandmother hasn’t cooked her famous fried chicken — or anything else, really — in just as long; and the malls, fast food joints and cable TV certainly don’t hold the same novelty they once did (but I sure have fun taking my annual trip the local casino!). And maybe it’s just that thick Midwest humidity or the way the lightning bugs sparkle in my grandparents’ back yard, but for those few days I’m there the clock turns back and I feel like a kid again. And isn’t that what summer’s for?
So, how did you spend your summers growing up? Where do you go now? Do you have any traditions you’ve hung onto since childhood?