It came as a shock to me the other day when I realized that summer is more than halfway over. In a little over a month, the rest of the world will be going back to school, and before we know it snow will be falling from the sky. This is usually about the time that I start to accept that there is no way I am going to accomplish all of my many summer plans, but I also spend a lot of time thinking about past summers and what made them so great. As much as I may complain about the heat, there is just no denying that summer has a bit of magic to it. The memories I have of summer are a testament to that.
1. Popcycles and milkshakes. There is nothing better than eating a popcycle or rewarding yourself to a milkshake from Wildflower Grill on a hot summer day. I remember Grandpa Jackson used to bring home humongous popcycles (the orange and red kind) when I was really little—I swear they were half as tall as I was. And then there were the many times at Domino's that Wes bought the CSRs shakes after surviving a busy rush (or a horribly boring one).
2. Tomatoes, corn, and watermelon. My vision of a perfect summer day usually involves eating food from our own garden. My grandparents always had a garden, and my family even had one for a few years. From the time I was little, I always loved home-grown tomatoes. (Store-bought tomatoes don't count. That's like eating Little Caeser's pizza instead of Brick Oven pizza.) I vividly remember one summer afternoon (I was probably about 4) when we were visiting my Grandma and Grandpa Rushton. The adults went inside to visit, but I soon found myself out in the tomato patch—I don't think I ever even went inside. Grandma had to track me down among all of her tomatoes to give me a hug good-bye. I must have eaten hundreds of cherry tomatoes that day; they were just so delightful I could not help myself. Corn on the cob was also a delightful treat. I remember being so proud the first time we ate corn grown from our very own garden. And of course, eating watermelon outside on the deck so that we can spit the seeds out on to the grass is still a highlight of my summer. Thanks to my 2 teasing grandpas, to this day I am still afraid to swallow watermelon seeds because then a watermelon might either grow in my stomach or out my head.
3. Bikes, roller skates, and wagons. I don't know what I would have done for entertainment as a kid if Elk Ridge wasn't all hills. I spent hours with the Enriquezes riding bikes and roller skating at the church parking lot. The climatic moment was always riding down the hill to my house, though. We did the same thing with our wagon. Even after one of the wheels got all crooked after being run over, we still raced up to the top of the hill by the Bushman's house and then raced down as fast as we could, bouncing (and laughing) like crazy. It is a very good thing that we get virtually no traffic on Cortez Drive. It is also good that Elk Ridge is such a safe haven—me and Kimberly especially liked to "run away" with our wagon full of dolls, Barbies, a loaf of bread, and some raisons. But even after our adventures out in the world, coming home was always a good feeling.
4. Lagoon and swimming. Almost every summer of my life I have been to Lagoon at least once, and we usually tried to spend a day at the pool, too. I was always so excited about those trips. I think I can still say that I have been on every ride at Lagoon, although "the green one" scarred me for life. I don't think it's there anymore.
5. Summer nights. Summer nights are the best nights of the year. Those hours just before sunset are always the best hours to sit on the porch, go for a walk, play outside, or play softball. Sleeping on the trampoline was always a fun adventure—playing night games, listening to the bugs, and falling asleep under the stars.
6. Summer rain. I have always loved the rain, especially when it is warm enough for me to be outside in it. We never used umbrellas for their real purpose; we used them to pretend to be old people and to make our own rain puddles. It was quite funny for me the first time it rained while I was at BYU and people actually pulled out their umbrellas and used them. I didn't realize that people actually used them seriously. I loved jumping on the trampoline as the rain fell from the sky and the trampoline got heavier and heavier. And I'll never forget the time that it started to hail, and within seconds we saw Tyrel pedaling furiously down Magellan Lane with no shoes on, screaming bloody murder.
7. Softball. My first memories of softball are when my dad and his brothers played. I used to think my dad was a professional baseball player (but then, I also thought that he played for the NBA). I guess I was too busy playing with my cousins to really know what was going on. I did, however, see the epic fight that my dad ended up in the middle of and the time that Clint ran into the fence and knocked over the garbage can. And I'll never forget Grandpa Rushton's umbrella hat and Grandma Rushton's look of happiness every time we gathered to watch her boys play. I played softball for 11 years. I always looked forward to February-March so that we could register. I looked forward to May so that I could find out what team I was on and when my first practice would be. 5:00 games were never really that fun, but I loved the 7:00 and 8:30 games. I tried out every position on the field except for catcher (I didn't play a whole lot of short stop either) and it was my dream to just make it to tournaments. And a few times I did. Hillman Field was my home during the summer for many years and I loved it there. We saw members of Dad's family there all the time—it was like having a 2-month-long family reunion. We saw Lore's family there a lot, too. The year when the 5 of us—me, Kimberly, Jessica, Vikki, and Melissa—were on the same team was a really fun year. We had always wanted to be on a team together, and we finally got to see it happen. I loved it when my dad would teach me techniques and rules, I loved getting treats at the end of each game, and I simply loved playing the game. I wish those years could have lasted longer.
8. Fireworks. My family always tried to blow something up for the 4th of July (or at least watch others do it). They usually didn't let us do fireworks in Elk Ridge, but I remember the excitement of many years when we would impatiently wait for it to get dark so that Dad would drive us around town, trying to find the best spot to watch the fireworks. It's always fun to have a parent along for the ride who is almost as excited as the kids. The best year was probably when we burned a hole in Grandma Rushton's trampoline with the parachute firework. Or the year that we set off the spinney one on Grandpa Jackson's telephone pole. I used to think that "up-in-the-air" fireworks were illegal in Utah because of the Mormons. The dry climate never occurred to me as a logical reason to ban fireworks.
9. Barbecues. As my extended family has gotten older and more spread out, we haven't gotten together as much as we used to, but we still manage it a few times a year, at least with my dad's side of the family. I love the smell of food being barbecued. Even if it's hot dogs. I love the visiting that takes place after the food. I love watching the new generation of cousins play. It's almost as fun as actually being the little one that everyone is watching. It is usually when I am surrounded by family on a gorgeous summer night that I am struck by how good life is.
10. Mountains. I may not be much of a hiker now, but I have many memories of hiking, camping, and just playing in the mountains or the creek. Even devoid of showers and soap, being outside in the elements can be a bit of paradise. It is during the summertime when it is easiest to marvel at God's creations. Unless it's too hot for you to think. And there's no denying that playing cards, roasting marshmallows, exploring, and playing with the campfire is a lot of fun. Being outside is always an adventure.
It worries me what kids nowadays are doing with their summers. As my dad was saying the other day, the only thing he needed to keep him entertained as a kid was a stick. I think the most expensive toy I ever had was a bike. While I do miss my computer games—especially Arcade Mania and Tetris—sometimes, those are not what I think of when I reflect back on my childhood summers. The things I remember are real, and most importantly, they will not grow old with time. My parents did the same things with us that their parents did with them. I plan to do the same things with my kids. I don't think mankind will ever tire of spending time with family and playing outside. Our toys may get bigger and more expensive, but at the root of our summers will still be down-to-earth fun.