When I look back at my childhood now, I think of it as something out of a storybook. Living on Maryhill Dr. was about as good as it gets for a kid. Even the street name - Maryhill - just sounds happy. I had my two best friends living right across the street and right next door to me. Both of them were boys, and maybe God was preparing me in His own way for raising two boys myself. We had a UNI football coach a couple houses up the street from us with a couple kids of his own for me to babysit, my very own in-ground pool and diving board in my backyard, and a neighbor living kitty-corner from us with a pool of their own -- equipped with the most awesome solar blanket that kept their pool at a very comfortable temperature all summer long. A neighbor on the other side of us had a trampoline. Our street was perfect for riding bikes up and down the hill over and over again, and every house around the block knew who we were and allowed us to zip in and out of their driveways over and over again on our bikes for hours on end. Summer days were picture perfect. The lady next door was our "babysitter" -- and every single day was spent at Ray Edward's Pool. Evenings were spent running away from Casey and James as they shot Nerf guns or squirt guns my direction. I can distinctly remember so many times my mom standing on our front steps, telling me it was time to come inside, take a shower and get ready for bed... and how much time I spent pleading with her to let me stay outside just a few more minutes. I wish I had a picture from the night that the conditions were just right for all of the kids to stand in Patty and Kevin's front yard and blow bubbles so much so that the bubbles stuck to the grass without popping, and their entire front yard was nothing but bubbles. Like I said... a scene out of a storybook. These years I loved summer, I adored our pool parties, I adored our neighbors, and life was easy-breezy. But time changes all, and those years seemed to come to an abrupt end. A fatal accident took our friends from next door very far away from us. Later that same year, that best friend from across the street moved a very long 10 hours away... and my parents finally decided it was time to build that nicer house on the other side of town. And then... just like that... it was time to "grow up." I started high school, turned 16, was given the responsibility of my own car and needed a job.
Summer during high school was spent working eight hours a day every single day at the UNI campus book store. A job I appreciated during the school year but detested during the summer. While my friends spent their days playing sand volleyball at George Wyth, I spent hours and hours standing behind a cash register bored to tears because a campus bookstore when school is not in session is not exactly a busy store. (Understatement). In college, my summers were spent missing my friends that had left for the long break, working more boring jobs that couldn't compare to the job that I loved to spend time at during the school year... and taking numerous summer classes. When they try to cram in a semester's worth of class work into four weeks, that unfortunately means you get to spend 2 1/2 hours every single day listening to your professor talk... and talk... and talk.... while the hands on the clock never seem to move. I much preferred the excitement that came with the start of a new school year. Life was never dull from September to May.
And in the four years since graduating from UNI, I have spent two of those summers in my first trimester of pregnancy and not feeling super hot... and the other two summers with small babies that hindered our activities somewhat.
But now... times are changing again. And as I sat in our backyard this afternoon, reading my Nook by the kids' pool while they took their naps, I couldn't help but spend a lot of time dwelling on summer's past, and the summer we are now trying to create for our kiddos. I'm not exactly sure when it happened or how... but I'm kind of starting to like this idea of summer again. It might have something to do with the fact that our yard is completely shaded by big mature trees... so much so that even when it's hot outside, we can keep somewhat cool by never having to stand or sit in direct sunlight.... a definite plus for someone who hates standing in direct sunlight. That might have something to do with it. But I think the biggest reason for my change in attitude is...
...These boys LOVE summer. They love water play, toying around in the sand box, swinging, visiting different parks, going for walks, sitting on our deck steps blowing bubbles, driving their John Deere tractor around the yard, learning to ride their trike... everything about being outside is an exciting and new experience for them. When I tell them it's time to put shoes on and go outside, Brandon races for the door, and Jaden doesn't even like to finish supper when he knows we get to play outside after supper is over.
My kids now rely on Cody and me to help them create memories. And if the memories I have as a kid in the summer mean this much to me now... I owe it to my two sweet boys to help create lasting memories for them, too. Hopefully when they're grown up they will look back on their years as young boys with a lot of happiness and a lot of cool stories to tell. And maybe... if I do this mommy thing right... they'll also look back on these years with a hint of sadness at the fact that these years are over.
One of the cool things about being a parent is that you kind of get to be a kid again yourself. I get to experience things again for the first time through the eyes of my boys. I can't wait for our mini-vacation in July, our first trip to my parent's boat on Clear Lake and their first experience with 4th of July fireworks. This weekend we'll be visiting the Sturgis Falls celebration... and memories I hold close to my heart will be re-created as brand new memories for my little ones. That's a pretty cool thing. And it's one of many reasons that I want to raise my family in the same town I grew up in.
"...And when I look back now, that summer seemed to last forever. And if I had the choice... yea, I'd always wanna be there. Those were the best days of my life..."