What is…The summer?
Summer. Just saying the word, hits me with a barrage of senses. I can almost taste the word, like a half-melted cherry Popsicle on the 4th of July. Or hear it, the sound of the rushing ocean, the seagulls cawing, and crickets chirping, their call audible through the open window, their sound mixing with the whirring of the fan late one hot August night. I can even smell it, a strange combination of the ocean, sunscreen, and chlorine from the neighborhood pool, and I can see the caterwauling children splashing about within the pool, just as I can see the blinking of the lightning bugs at twilight.
The days get longer, the nights are warm and balmy, and during most of these three months the majority of us teenagers are carefree without the worries of school, homework, and sports and activities to bog us down. And maybe that explains why so many people enjoy summer so much. Even if you don’t love hot weather, or even if you don’t travel to any exotic locales for your summer vacation, at the very least, you are free of school and all the worries and anxiety that accompany it
Ever since I can remember, we have had a shore house. I can’t remember a 4th of July that hasn’t taken place on the deck of our beach-front shore house in Sea Isle City, New Jersey.
Now, at this time of year, it’s hard to picture the 4th of July when I stare out the window and am confronted with leaf-less trees swaying in that harsh wind that chills you to the bone. It’s also hard to imagine the feel of the blazing summer heat and the practically tangible heaviness of the humidity in the air on those sweltering days when I am wearing sweaters and jackets. But I can bring myself back to that early July evening if only because it’s the one thing that gets me through those dreary days. I can feel it with my memory.
Dressed in a tank top and shorts, I gather with my family on our ocean side deck to view the fireworks. I feel the slight chill of the ocean breeze and hear the waves crashing against the shore about 100 yards in front of me, past the dunes and the expanse of beach where hundreds of vacationers set up towels and blankets to see the upcoming extravaganza. I can feel the grain of the wood planks that make up the deck floor beneath my feet, and I can see in the distance through the dark blanket of night what look like small flashing lights: Ocean City’s 4th of July celebration. Out in the ocean, hundreds of small red lights are visible, the lights of boats whose occupants are also waiting to see the pyrotechnics. The fireworks start, and as everyone oohs and aahs over the brilliance of the rainbow colored lights flashing before our eyes, I take a mental picture of the colors and sparkle to bring out on a cold day like this one.
I think one reason the summer means so much to me is because, essentially, you can be yourself at this time of year more than any other. You have the freedom of choice concerning which school friends you see and spend time with, whereas in the winter during the school year, you are forced to spend hours upon hours with other students that you aren’t overly fond of. Since, in the summer, you can spend your time with only those closest to you, you can be yourself, and not worry about being judged or criticized by everyone else in school.
As soon as my last final exam is finished on that thrilling day in mid- June, I’m already packing my bags for “the shore,” and, for the majority of the summer, I’ll call Sea Isle home. After spending 9 months trapped in the prison we Springfieldians call home, the sun, sand, and excitement make me as happy as a little kid in Disney World. Maybe it’s not a tropical island, but Sea Isle City in the summer is one of my favorite places in the world. At the shore there are constantly new people, places, and events, and there is always excitement. The boardwalk is interesting in itself, and every night is different.
I think another reason summer makes me feel so joyous is the fact that, ever since I was little, summer has been synonymous with happiness and fun. Between being at the beach with my family and having fun with my best friend Jamie (who also happens to my cousin) summer is an escape from everyday life in Springfield. Every day at the shore is special, and every second is a moment in time that I’ll commit to memory and forever cherish. Things are just so different when you are away from home, the weather is warm, and you are in different surroundings. Something about the summer months just gives people the courage to branch out, go wild, and try new things.
Not to get too nostalgic, but certain things just only happen in the midst of summer. Like the time when Jamie and I tied up my younger brother, Brett, taped his mouth shut, duct taped him to a chair, and locked him out on our deck. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but come on, stuff like that just doesn’t happen in Springfield! (Besides, he deserved it!) For as far back as I can remember, back to the days when Jamie and I felt like rebels for sneaking upstairs to watch T.V. at midnight, it has always been that way. Summer has a sort of timeless quality, and even though the profound aspects of your life change, it almost seems like, in the summer, time stands still, and all the summer days of my memory merge into one. Even though now Jamie and I rebel by sneaking OUT at midnight (thank the lord for first floor decks), these summers seem the same as those sticky days from my youth, where my biggest daily decision was where Jamie and I would build our next sand castle.
Most people share this belief that summer is sort of the time to make memories. When middle-aged adults and parents reminisce about their youth, getting starry-eyed and talking about “the good ol’ days”, often you hear stories of wild nights at summer camp, crazy debacles at the beach, and summer romances, which, for some reason, have the sort of allure that dating during the school year lacks. There is a sort of indescribable magic about the summer that, no matter where you live or what kind of crazy events you are involved in during June, July, and August; everyone feels.
I can picture myself, even though it makes me cringe to do so, in my forties. Although I have virtually no idea what direction my life will have taken, I know one thing: when life becomes more stressful than fun, and when I have more obligations than vacations, maybe I, too, will daydream about the “good ol’ days;” and those unforgettable summer nights at the beach.
[Also read Casey's high school fiction piece about Sea Isle City, "63rd and Pleasure"].
Read more from Casey's Personal Writing