Is it plagiarism and lazy if you steal your own blog article that was a guest post on someone else’s blog from two summers ago? I hope not. I’m on summer vacation and this post seems especially nostalgic and appropriate for right now. Although I’ve given it a 2020 update, the sentiments are the same.
Thanks to my precious, longtime friend, Betsy Pendergrass, who invited me to write on her blog and reminded me that I need to make words more often. Betsy has an amazing website, a podcast, inspiring products and a wonderful community to join – check her out at Gathering Around!
The word is packed with so much potential! The idea of summer always holds the possibility for unforgettable moments. When I think about the summer memories I cherish, they range from the mundane to the spectacular.
Just this morning, I’m sitting here on a summer vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina with my husband and two sons. We’re vacationing in the time of the coronavirus. The limitations of that make me especially grateful that last summer, we took an epic two-week trip out West when it was possible to travel with no restrictions.
Living in the moment – especially now – is more important than ever.
Over the years we’ve spent together as a family unit of four, I realize I’ve been borderline obsessed with making every summer special. I inherited this charge from my parents, who took me and my brother on a variety of memorable trips without ever getting on a plane.
I recall a cross-country trip in the 1980’s when my family left Alabama in a large yellow Buick bearing a ROLL TIDE bumper sticker and a handmade California or Bust sign in the window. Clearly we weren’t trying to blend in on our journey West. On this trip, I somehow became the only witness to a shooting in South Central L.A. We were lost. There was no GPS. There were no cell phones. These were simpler times. Thankfully God had plans to keep me around to create equally terrifying and terrific memories for another generation.
Even with the way technology has changed the way we travel today, my family has enjoyed and endured many similar adventures. We’ve packed a lot into the 20 years since my oldest was born. We’ve done the tourist traps at the beach and the mountains, we’ve been to a Yankees game, we’ve eaten Chicago deep-dish pizza, we’ve done the theme parks, and we’ve sailed on a Caribbean cruise. We’ve overspent and perhaps overcompensated for who knows what, but I still wouldn’t change a thing.
As awesome and photo-worthy as those memories are, I’ve found that some of the sweetest memories have been much simpler, closer to home, and cheaper. When I was blessed to be a work-at-home mom and the boys were little, our summer days were magic. After they slept late, we would eat Cream of Wheat for breakfast, fill up the baby pool, and read stories at night before bedtime. We rode bikes, went to story time at the library, and slathered hydrocortisone on mosquito bites.
It wasn’t fancy, but it was good.
Years later, summers started filling up with sports and activities, but I still purposed to capture something meaningful. We would go swimming with friends, enjoy longer visits with their grandparents, and stay up late every night to watch movies and make popcorn.
As the years raced by and the boys naturally started gravitating toward more time with friends and their teenage interests (PS4 and working out — need I say more?), I’ve found myself sometimes feeling lost. Where do I really fit in anymore? In a true “Hail Mary” attempt to keep our evolving relationships intact, we bought a small, used camper several years ago. It was my desperate effort to make the most of what was left of our dwindling summer family time.
As possibly the least outdoorsy family to go camping EVER, we went for it and never looked back. Fast forward and I’m proud to say we’ve enjoyed several camping trips together. They were not without challenges such as getting locked outside the camper, toilet problems, rainy campsites, no heat, an incessant smoke alarm, and grumpy hiking treks. I also should mention that my family did not even fit comfortably in this camper that barely slept four (see update in photo below). To call us happy campers all the time would have been a stretch.
But regardless of how imperfect our summer memories may be, they are OURS and ours alone. For me, summer is perhaps the most defining part of childhood. It’s a condensed version of the highs and lows that define every family dynamic and it’s deeply personal. The point of summer isn’t to make it Instagram worthy or spend the most money, it’s just to make it uniquely YOURS and embrace every second.
Make precious family memories while you can in this brief ray of sun. It only shines for a season, but its warmth will stay with you forever.