August 30, 2006
Simple Summer Pleasures
This summer, my son attended three different camps. Granted, they were all worthy experiences — he attended REACH, a faith-based organization that aims to send kids to help rebuild homes in areas of need, Boy Scout camp, and Peconic Dunes, where he engaged in all manner of fun, outdoor activities. In summers past, he has traveled to London, Ireland, the Southwest, and, of course, Disney World, a favorite he's visited numerous times.
During his at-home time, he spent the days lounging by the pool, jumping on the trampoline, and playing what seemed to be endless hours of video games. Not to mention the parties, sleepovers and Friday night movies in Hampton Bays.
Nice life, if you can get it.
When I was a little girl, summers meant eternally long days spent sweltering on our Brooklyn stoop, sweating with my best friend on the black-tarred porch as we sent Barbie off on all sorts of exotic adventures, and playing wall ball in the city park. There was one, two-week vacation to the Jersey Shore where we felt wildly extravagant as we strolled the boards and sampled cotton candy and early bird suppers.
But, while there was certainly no extravagance to those summers, no pricey vacation packages or swanky cruises, there was a simplicity that I find myself yearning for during these lazy, hazy days of waning summer.
It's the little things I remember most vividly. The fresh cherries at the fruit stand that signaled the beginning of summer, of sun-drenched days and firefly-dotted nights.
I remember Coney Island, beginning with the trip on the N train, which we took to the end of the line. I remember holding on tightly to my mother with one hand, my Baby Tender Love doll in the other, as I headed off on what seemed to be the world's greatest adventure.
The image of that Coppertone baby, her bikini being tugged by a puppy, was the first to greet me in Coney Island, followed by the sign for Nathan's — to this day, no one has ever made a better French fry. There was saltwater taffy and lollipops larger than my little-girl face, games of chance and a pre-Disney "It's a Small World Ride" that made me dizzy with delight.
My Jersey Shore memories are a plethora of pleasures — waffles and ice cream and waterfront roller coasters. A hand-carved carousel and hot buttered popcorn. Poolside waitress service and stuffed animal prizes. Fresh, homemade fudge and fireworks on Friday nights. I close my eyes today and can still see the bright neon lights of Palace Amusements, recently torn down, illuminating the night sky.
Most of all, I remember the miniature golf. My grandmother, with whom we traveled every summer, was the queen of the sport — always scoring the hole in one and a free game, to boot. Even when she was in her late 70s, she held onto her mini golf crown.
Last weekend, my heart calling out for yesterday, I set out in search of such simple pleasures. My son in tow, I headed out to Greenport.
We left the iPod in the car and spent the day talking. I took my son for a spin on the carousel and on a visit to the old-fashioned blacksmith's shop. We walked the docks and spent the day laughing. Smiling for photos at the old-time jail. Eating ice cream and yes, playing miniature golf.
And, when my son beat me, hands down, and declared himself the new king of the sport, I knew that somewhere, my grandmother was smiling, happily handing over her title. Because suddenly, I found myself fusing past with present, making summer memories with my son that will carry him far into the future. A future where I pray he'll find his own sweet, simple pleasures of summer.