Thursday, October 26, 2006

Family Summer Memories

Summer – fun, sun, fireflies, barbeques and family trips or traditions. Summer is a bit of downtime for everyone in the family, and the downtime allows for some significant memories later on along the road of life.

To me, the olfactory moments of summer come in the form of Coppertone suntan lotion. I know that I should be using fancier, better wrinkle-reducing sunscreen to keep that road map of lines around my eyes and forehead at bay, but Coppertone’s memories are comfort to me. One whiff and I am transported back to the Jersey shore or the rocky beaches of Compo in Westport. The sounds of gulls and sandpipers, waves crashing or caressing the shore, motor boats shooting through the waves, always bring me smiles and serenity.

My father had a Sailfish (sort of a surf board with a sail) and he’d take our family out each summer Sunday for hours of exploration on the Long Island Sound or the bay off of Long Beach Island in New Jersey. Freedom to me still feels like salt water spray and wind, and sand in my scalp and places in my bathing-suit that I never knew sand could get into.

My brother and I weren’t off at day camps back then, but my four kids have certainly had that experience. YMCA camp, town rec programs, the New Canaan Nature Center (which is awesome for the pre-school set by the way), and sports camps have all added to their summer memory banks. Janet graduated to sleep-away camp last year, which brings me to our family’s new summer experience.

Janet’s camp is just outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where our family has been spending two weeks every summer for the past 10 years. Her camp features a month of western horseback riding and rodeos, hiking, and backpacking among the Teton mountain range. This year – for some reason – I thought it might be fun to drive her out to camp from Connecticut, so she and Jack could see some of America along the way. Two kids, one mom, driving for 8 to 10 hours a day for four days. Can I survive? Stayed tuned.

This will be the summer of “Jul and Jack’s Most Excellent Adventure.” Because once we drop Janet off at camp, it will be three weeks of mother-and-son bopping around Wyoming and the West, before daddy joins us for the fourth week. This may be one family memory for the books (or one book if I could find an agent)!

Whether your child is a toddler or a teen, they will carry their summer moments with them over into their own future families. It could be the summer they broke their arm falling out of a tree house and how mom and/or dad took care of them afterwards. Or the summer they had their heart broken and you kept your distance while still letting them know your arms were always open for a hug. It will be the sounds and smells of the ocean or the grandeur of a mountain, or the snaps of twigs under foot, or the stickiness of popsicles on a warm summer eve, which will evoke their parent’s laughter and voices.

My own parents are now dead, but all I have to do is pop open a tube of Coppertone and they come swirling out, alive as can be, with all the summer lessons and levity intact.

Create and embrace your own family memories in this summer of 2005. You will never regret doing so.

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