The prompt over at Mrs. Disciple this week is “Awesome summer memories.” I decided not to rely on my idea of what our awesome memories were but to go to the source. I asked my now-grown daughters–what are your favorite summer memories? So here they are. At least, some of them. Because we are incredibly fortunate to have more than five.
4H and the County Fair
Every single year of their childhood, the girls and I had a frenzied July as we tried to complete approximately 1,242 4H projects in two weeks. Signing up for so many seemed like a good idea at the time, when they were presented with all the exciting project options in September. Every year, we pledged to start right then in the fall and not be frenzied in July.
We never did.
Every year, we would show up a the fairgrounds, car loaded with matchstick Eiffel Towers and chocolate chip muffins and stools painted to match their sun, moon, and stars closet renovation. LOADED. As in two or three trips and wagons loaded with boxes loaded with . . . it was a lot of projects.
We would arrive stressed, hot, and well equipped with tape, glue, and a prayer for anything that had fallen apart during transport. (Plus the ones that, to be honest, were not quite finished when they went into the car.) Did I mention it was always HOT for those twelve trips to the car?
Every year they complained. Fussed. Said they did not want to do so many project the next year Then they walked out with champion trophies, huge smiles, and big dreams. When it was all over and only I was left looking at the craft room filled with past plans and triumphs, thy admitted it. 4H taught them a lot. How to accept judgment, how to speak to a judge with confidence, how to make just about anything with resourcefulness and will. How to be creative, bake bread, think outside the box, and have patience.
How to completely make things up on the spot so the judge will believe you totally meant for the castle wall to cave in like that. OK, so that last skill might border on inappropriate deception. But it IS a skill.
When all the judging was over, we would ride the rides and bring loving spectators to see all their hard work and ribbons. Those were good years. Absolutely Crazy. But good.
Many a backyard fire has blazed with the branches that seem to multiply daily falling from our black walnut and elm trees. They bring family all together from whatever corner of the world we are at, drawn to the orange flicker and the smell of bratwurst and marshmallows.
Life slows down. We talk. We stargaze. We watch the bats come out and dart around above out heads, scooping up mosquitoes as we offer up our gratitude for that service.
There is something about the holding of a marshmallow over a flame, waiting for the perfect golden brown toast, that demands the slower mindset. Then there is the squishy, melted chocolate and the satisfyingly crispy-crumbly graham cracker. Summer.
Spontaneous Day Trips
Like Happy Feet, we like to be spon-tan-u-ous! There is a well-worn book on our selves called Illinois Oddities. It is what is says. A listing of places in Illinois that are random, weird, odd, and great fun. We have made it our mission to visit these places.
We have touched The Leaning Tower of Niles, mini-golfed in a mortuary, fed coins to fire-breathing dragon, and checked out Tall Paul and His Giant Hot Dog. (Yes, that is what it’s called. Yes, we made multiple inappropriate jokes in the car.) On the docket this summer—the world’s largest red flyer wagon.
The sites are (mostly) free, it feels like a treasure hunt, and it defines our family identity. (Not entirely sure what it says about us, but that’s OK.) All wins.
We are blessed to live near Lake Michigan and Chicago, so many trips focus either on the city or the dunes and beaches on the other side of it. Sun, sand, mud, water. The girls have fond memories of Warren Dunes in Michigan and pasting clay all over our bodies before diving into the lake. Memories we will never lose.
Making ice cream to eat on the deck, swiping away the wasps. Decorating their bikes for the 4th of July parade with whatever we have around the house that is red, white, and blue. (My craft room is never at a loss.) Looking through FamilyFun magazines to find new things to create. Those were most of our summer days.
They didn’t have the bikes with all the fancy swirly pinwheels and balloons from the party store. But they had fun. And they were their own imaginative creations. Who needs to go places and buy things when you can retreat into the sunflower tent you grew yourself?
Yes, summer reading was definitely on the menu. Isn’t i the best feeling to finish the school year and realize you can read whatever you want to for a few months? Library summer reading programs, school summer reading contests. (We always won those—inrovert girls will always come out on top in reading contests.) All great for checking out twenty book and sitting in that sunflower tent reading.
Even if, to be truthful, we never got those sunflowers to grow past a couple feet.