Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Happened to Those Long, Lazy Summer Days?

by Niki Turner

Those long, hot, slow summer days must have been a figment of my childhood imagination. Lazy hours outside with warm sunlight filtering through the fluttering aspen leaves overhead, my radio tuned to the Top 40 station and my book-of-the-moment in hand, have become a distant memory.

What changed? I still have the book-of-the-moment (hardbacks, paperback and now, a Kindle) and I've exchanged the old radio (the kind with the antenna and the dial that had to be manually moved to the appropriate station, remember those?) for an MP3 player. I still have aspen trees outside my house, and a porch, and the sun is still present. But something is different.
Is it housework? My kids? My job? Errands to run? Bills to pay? Meals to shop for and prepare? A wicked combination of all of the above that have conspired to rob me of the simple pleasures of summer? Obviously, I have more responsibilities these days. I have demands on my time and energy I didn't have back then. But I don't think that's the root of the problem.

Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood I unwittingly accepted a membership in the Short on Time Society. The S.T.S. boasts millions of lifetime members. Everywhere we go we promote our group: When people ask how we are, our answer is almost always some variation on "busy." 

In case you haven't noticed, "busy" is not conducive to drowsy afternoons in the hammock with a tall glass of sweet tea.

The painful truth? For the most part, I choose how I spend my time. I choose whether or not my kids are signed up for 17 different summer activities, all of which will require me to chauffeur them to and from multiple locations throughout the day. I choose how many invitations I accept, saying 'yes' to volunteer projects and assignments and social events, even when I could (and probably should) say 'no.' 

Since becoming an adult, all too often I let my summer days (and then weeks, and then months) get away from me by living according to the urgent, instead of planning and prioritizing to prevent futile busyness and carve out time for the things that matter, the things that make summer a time of refreshing ... like lazily wiling away an afternoon with a great novel and a pitcher of frosty lemonade. 

What summer pleasures would you like to restore to your grown-up summer season?


  1. I miss reading book after book after book without interruption. Summers meant frequent library trips as a child, frequent bookstore trips as a teenager. It meant long stretches of reading in the air conditioned house while the temperature outside soared to 100+.

    Now summer means family outings and driving my kids here and there (but the baby gets his license this fall! Yippee!), so even without school, I feel like I have very little uninterrupted reading time in summer. In fact, maybe less than during the school year!

  2. Summers are kind of a challenge for me at this point in my life. During the school year I feel like I have a few hours five days a week that I can call my own. In the summer, I don't feel like I have any time that is mine.

    On the other hand, I get to play a lot more in the summer. A lot of that time that is "not my own" is spent at the beach, pool, and amusement parks. I actually end up spending more time with friends, because my family will get together with other families more. I need to remember to look on the bright side, even if I don't get much writing or me time during these months.

  3. I also loved the long, slow days of summer accompanied by a good book and the fluttering aspen leaves! I have a garden swing that has become my summer mini-vacation spot. Our backyard is sheltered and quiet. I spend many a Sunday afternoon and the occasional evening sitting on the garden swing, reading my book, sipping my ice water and enjoying the pleasant summer afternoon. The birds flit in and out of the yard. I can look around at the garden, the puffy clouds in the sky. All the entertainment I need for a quiet Sunday afternoon!
    Elaine King

  4. D'Ann- On the days it was too hot to be outside (rare in the Rockies) I would retreat to the cool, dark basement and read. There's nothing like finishing a book, getting up, stretching, having a snack, and picking up the next one!

  5. Dina- I can see how you would feel like all your personal time disappears with your kids home from school. I've noticed the same thing even as a homeschooler. Suddenly everyone's whole day is completely unstructured, which makes me feel like I'm just running around like the White Rabbit!

    Deb- You are too funny, girl!

    Anita- Lovely comment! Makes me want to come sit in your backyard retreat. My family doesn't always understand that when I'm sitting somewhere quiet with a book I'm perfectly happy and content, and I do not need them to come and "entertain" me with chatter, requests, or conversation!

  6. I honestly don't think I ever have a day of the 'old fashioned' summer. Can we ever get back those kind from our youth? I live at the lake. I used to swim, read, nap or go out in my rowboat and follow creeks or find sandy beaches. Now it's all housework, cooking, cleaning,(when not at the paying jobs) and my free time is at the computer. I go for months without getting near the water. I have to go a few states away to get one day that mimics those of my youth.
    I recall sitting in my tire swing for hours in a self-induced state of altered awareness...

    Wouldn't it be nice to just show up in the kitchen and say, 'what's to eat?'

    I agree --Reading a book for as long as it takes me to finish it or decide on a nap sounds heavenly!

    Thanks for the reminder, Niki!

  7. It sounds heavenly. My carefree days ended when the world that revolved around me imploded and began anew, only this time revolving around two tiny little people who call me Mom. Sometimes I daydream about the days when they will leave home and I can have ten minutes of uninterrupted peace, maybe twenty minutes of no one climbing on me. Ahhh.

    But then I remember how very blessed I am. And I think the lemonade can wait.

  8. What a wonderful summer you described, Niki. I try to capture some of it. I can relate to what Dina and Lisa said about losing time, especially writing time, in the summer. I don't want my kids to resent my writing, but they're also old enough to spare me an hour or so. It just doesn't always work out that way.

    I try to not over-schedule our days so we have time to play, read, snooze, visit friends. And I also cherish these days, because they won't last forever.

  9. You hit the target when you answered the question of why we're so busy. We take on activities without considering the time factor.

    Love the cartoon. :)


  10. I'll take the hammock, a great mystery and a tall glass of iced tea.

  11. I'm submitting a challenge: I think we should all commit to set aside ONE DAY for summer!

    Jan- What mystery are you looking forward to reading this summer?

    Susan- I find that all those activities take twice as long as I think they will!

    Susie-You can do it! You and Dina and all of us, we CAN have summer fun and still keep up with our writing. I know it's possible, because all things are possible with God!

    Deb - "self-induced state of altered awareness" - I LOVE IT!

    Lisa - Those days DO come. And then instead of climbing on you, you're wondering where they are and what they're doing. : ) Physical distractions exchanged for mental ones.

  12. I love that cartoon! Is she breast feeding? LOL

    As a kid, I spent a lot of days in lakes and rivers and as an adult I still do! I have a little less time to play since I'm the one packing and unpacking and repacking gear/picnics/toys/the kitchen sink. But for the most part, some things never change.


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