The past few months I’ve thought a lot about the summers before I headed off to college. I didn’t have a care in the world as I sat on the beach at the water’s edge, allowing the cool ocean to run over my perfectly painted toes. Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” played in the background, making me dream of summer romances and moonlit nights.
It’s funny how a song or a smell can take you back to a moment in time that occurred so long ago. Don Henley, Bain de Sole, and Agree shampoo all bring me back to my summers by the shore. Lazy summer days and nights filled with parties under a gleaming moon, the popping sounds of cold beers being opened and the hopes of meeting a summer crush loomed in the air. The waves, crashing on the shore, provided the perfect background sound for those dreamy summer nights. I wish I had paid more attention to the beautiful moons that illuminated the beach and the soothing sounds of the surf, but that’s what getting older gives you…very different perspectives.
My memories of twenty years ago are so vivid that I just have to close my eyes and remember. Remember taking an hour to choose an outfit with my girlfriends and wash my hair with the shampoo that we all shared. Applying awful black or blue eyeliner in a steamy bathroom covered with products and perfume bottles. Listening intently as my girlfriends mom made sure we knew the rules and the consequences of breaking them, all the while Simon and Garfunkel were crooning in the background, telling us it was a time of innocence, a time of confidences and not really understanding what that meant then … but knowing fully now.
My time at the beach is now spent in and out of the ocean on various boards, trying to learn to surf with my daughter and sons. Rarely do I have a chance to sit and read a trashy magazine. LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It”, SPF 50 Banana Boat and Suave Kids Swim shampoo have replaced the sounds and smells of years ago. But there’s something about getting your toes in the sand that makes you feel young again. Perhaps it’s the consistency of the waves crashing on the shore, emitting the same sound heard so long ago. Moon lit nights are now spent chasing ghost crabs under a starry sky and laughter and screams of delight fill the air. I love to see my kids piled on the couch at the end of a long day at the beach, hair blonder than when we came, faces redder than they should be, eyes dazed but content from riding waves and building sand castles. It’s perfect peace, even if it lasts for just a few moments.
I believe it’s a form of therapy, remembering life before it got so crazy complicated. The smells and the sounds remind me of a time where I didn’t need to worry about my parents getting sick or my friends getting divorced. It was a time when the word “cancer” happened to the older people and was only a conversation that I heard and was not involved in. I believe that God gives us these memories to bring us back to that place where our mind is allowed to think about the simple things. Almost like a much-needed vacation in a very short amount of time.
Summer was and is a time that I will always love; now, it’s just more of a time of juggling work schedules and making sure that the kids are “engaged” while you meet deadlines and demands of this adult life that doesn’t have a summer break. I get that life changes and we need to move and roll with it. But those days when the kids are creating mayhem over the last pretzel or putting a game of touch football together in the den, I need to escape. When my voice seems to have been put on mute and their ears are deaf to my demands I think of those that were with me in those years at the beach. We had no idea what the next twenty plus years would bring and no one could have ever prepared us for this; for the constant need and want and undivided attention that these little and not so little ones need. But that’s the way life is, trial by fire. Sink or swim. You choose which one you are going to do, get your oar and paddle like hell upstream or go over the falls.
I know that we will reap the rewards one day and there are little moments that sneak in and surprise you. A random hug from a 10-year-old who usually thinks you are the worst, your 7-year-old daughter telling you that you look pretty after you come home from a run that kicked your tail or your husband telling you thanks for something random that you would never expect. It’s the little things that are the gifts that get you through the day-to-day.
So when Don Henley tells us to never forget those nights that happened so long ago, don’t. They are (believe it or not) what has made us (for better or worse) who we are today. And when you send them off to school and have that first moment alone in over ninety days, turn up the radio to the volume your eighteen year old self would have listened to and smile. You made it and they are no worse for wear. Roll your windows down and don those sunglasses, smudged from the weekend’s last sunscreen application and reflect on this summer past. The good, the bad and the ugly. And know that your past self, the one sitting in her beach chair with the perfectly painted toenails, would be proud.