Summer is my favorite time of year.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am an Arizonian and I absolutely love the summertime.
I can already see my friend Jim who runs Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary snorting at this, for he is outside most of the day and the summer is the absolute worst time of the year for the ranch. It is an average of 115 degrees outside during the hot parts of the day (I’ve seen the thermometer hit 120 before!) but even if it’s above 95 it’s still miserable. So when I speak of summertime, let it be known that I’m not necessarily talking about the weather. (Because yes, unless you’re near a pool and have nothing to do but lay out by the water, the weather sucks.)
Honestly, I think my true appreciation of summer began when I saw the Disney movie Recess: School’s Out. You remember that old cartoon of that group of kids who ran around school getting into shenanigans and running the playground and whatnot? Well, they made a movie of the series back in 2001 about how summer vacation was a kid’s only remaining freedom in the harsh reality of becoming an adult. I love that movie far more than a 20-year-old should ever love a cartoon, I think… but it’s such a wonderful film. It’s about defending childhood innocence and keeping those memories as we grow. Growing old, but never growing up. To me, that is what the summer is all about. It stands for freedom and for peaceful times during which we are all encouraged to play and live a little.
The first of my many summer traditions was established when I started watching that Recess movie each year; even now I have to watch it as soon as school is out to officially kick the summer off. Over the years, other traditions have been established, too, and each and every day is always amazing, always cherished.
Below are little activities and customs that have defined my summers and will define this coming one, too. Whether these provide you with entertainment for a few minutes or inspire you to establish your own traditions, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them!
1) The first day of summer that Cave Creek hits triple digits, I go to the greatest shaved ice stand of all time. (Actually, I go there all summer long, not just on the first day it’s a hundred degrees outside.) Those people know me way too well by now. Oh, and I only order cherry cola shaved ices. All other people I take there are normal and order different flavors each time, but I stick with the same one.
2) The Fourth of July – my favorite holiday – is a day of reading about the American Revolution and watching National Treasure. It is a day of basking in the freedom that our country has given us and a day for thinking of ways to make the nation stronger. It is also a day where I turn on the TV (one of the only days of the year I watch TV) and watch Washington D.C.’s firework display/concert. I’ll spend those few hours wishing with all my heart I were there. (Needless to say, it is a dream of mine to be in D.C. on the Fourth of July.) Every year on July 3rd I get to see live fireworks up at Harold’s, a popular Steelers bar up in Carefree, with a carload of friends. Such perfect days those are.
3) I wash my car all the time. I’m careful not to use too much water each time, but since I don’t really like swimming this is as much interaction with water as I tend to get. There’s just something about being outside in shorts and flip-flops and cleaning the little baby that gets me from Point A to Point B under the hot sun that makes me so happy. Unfortunately, I think this particular tradition is bound to die… this will be the first summer that I don’t have my Eleanor (my beautiful and wonderful little ’99 Corolla that got beat up in an accident last September) so it won’t be as special. Oh man, that car was my other half. This summer is not going to be the same without her.
4) Almost every night I get in my car and drive through the desert at sundown with the windows down and country music blasting, even if it’s just up to the gas station or to the ranch down the street to say hello. There is nothing like feeling the hot wind against my face and in my hair as I’m watching the sun set on the most beautiful place in the entire world.
5) Speaking of the ranch, starting in 2009, I started volunteering at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary, a forever home to previously abused, neglected, injured, or generally unwanted horses. The place changed my life. I don’t get to go there too often during the school year anymore, but going there in the summertime to see the horses and other volunteers, to ride bareback and help fundraise for the ranch is one of the best and most rewarding things there possibly is.
6) The Cleaning of the Closet is a fun tradition – it’s the time I get to go through my closet and pull out anything long-sleeved, woolen, or otherwise uncomfortable to wear when walking outside is similar to walking within an oven. Usually I fill two trash bags full of winter clothing that get stuffed into the garage until September. During the Arizona summer, the goal is to wear as little clothing as one can legally get away with – 110 degrees is not the time to wear anything other than shorts and a tank top!
7) There are two parks that I go to often in order to contemplate life and be a little kid again: the small one in the neighborhood I grew up in, and the playground at my old elementary school where I spent seven years of my life. Yes, I fully admit to climbing fences and walking freely in a school playground in the summertime (though in my defense, there are no “No Trespassing” signs to be seen). There is something so calming about being in the presence of places where I spent my childhood; to make a long story short, I subconsciously repressed a lot of my childhood memories due to an event that happened when I was 15, and wandering around the fields where I used to play helps me to recover them. Because summer is about childhood and innocence, I feel it is important to remember the crazy times I used to have with my friends and hold fast to each memory.
The other custom that I don’t like so much is the task of working most of the summer… but such duties come with growing up, right? Maybe that’s why remembering my elementary school days is important to me – as I battle the business world and settle into a career, I always want to have the same amount of contentment I carried with me during the summers of my childhood.
I’m probably forgetting more traditions, and I’ll probably establish more this summer. That is what summer is all about, though – living each day to its fullest, never looking back, always remembering to cherish each and every moment.
Here’s to the summer of 2012 – may it be a wonderful one for you, reader, and may there be many more to follow.
“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.” ~ Ada Louise Huxtable