Summer is such a strange season for me. I have a lot of negative memories attached to it, so if you read my post about seasonal bad memories, you might think I would generally dread June through August. But strangely, no. And lately I’ve been wondering why.
To start, I guess I can compare summer to the other seasons. Winter used to be my favorite; I prefer cooler weather, so I guess that would make the most sense. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday, and I would always look forward to the holiday season. It felt like a big welcome party for the rest of winter. But after high school, winter’s slowly been annoying me a little more each year. The end of the fall semesters in college (i.e., the holiday season) was always filled with an enormous amount of work that never seemed to end. Getting into the Christmas spirit was difficult when I had to worry about getting multiple projects and term papers finished on time. Working retail drove the nail in the coffin, and now I generally dread Christmastime. And snow… well, I’ve already written about that.
I feel like I always look forward to spring, but end up being extremely disappointed by something before it ends. Most of the time it was heartbreak, but in high school I was always fairly sad at the end of the school year because I wouldn’t see a lot of people for a few months. Fall, in all honesty, should be my favorite season. It’s arguably the most colorful and the temperature’s at my most preferred level. But it’s often when I’m the most nostalgic, and that usually puts me in a melancholy mood. I also dealt with a lot of anxiety in regards to starting school again, and I wasn’t able to enjoy a single fall throughout college because of it.
Summer just seemed… there. Like I said, I have a lot of negative memories attached to summer, especially during high school. A lot of arguments with my best friend, a lot of fights with other friends, and a lot of unexplained frustration accompanied many of my summers. Maybe that’s why it just seemed there; I kind of just… blocked it out.
But I don’t know. Lately summer hasn’t bothered me as much. It’s strange, but I almost want to say I’ve started looking forward to it. I haven’t been thinking about those negative memories for a few years. In fact, I’ve been remembering a lot of positive memories about the summer.
I went to a lot of places with my family. We went to Six Flags Great Adventure at least once per summer. Our school would give us a summer reading sheet to fill out; if we read enough, we would get free tickets to Six Flags. So naturally, I remember a lot of trips to the library. They’d have people read to the kids, and after we’d search for books to borrow. I remember experiencing a lot of Goosebumps books this way, in particular Egg Monsters From Mars, The Beast From the East, and The Cuckoo Clock of Doom (although I only remember what the last one was about; I guess the covers are what I remember most).
I have some memories of visiting the boardwalk a lot, too. I’m sure we were on the beach at some point during those trips, but I remember the boardwalk more. I recall walking the shore streets to actually get there. My mom didn’t want to pay for parking, so we usually found an empty spot on the street several blocks away. Honestly, I don’t blame her. Parking at the beach can be a bitch, and how are we supposed to know how long we’re going to stay? Do we risk putting in too much money and lose it if we leave early? Or do we risk not putting in enough and getting a fine if we stay too long?
There were always a lot of flashing lights and sounds from all the boardwalk games. There were a ton of prizes I wanted to win. South Park became very popular in the late 90s, and I really liked how all the characters looked. Even though my parents wouldn’t let me watch it because I was too young, they let me win some merchandise. I have a couple of key chains with the boys on it, I think I had some wind-up toys or figures, and my mom even won me a fairly large Kenny doll. Yup, my mom won me a toy from a show she wouldn’t allow me to watch. Kind of weird, in retrospect. But I guess not as weird as the time when she won me a Red Dog doll from the Red Dog beer line.
Hmm. Perhaps mom wasn’t always the best influence. Anyway…
The arcades were also really fun. Aside from The Simpsons Arcade Game, I don’t remember playing a lot of specific video games at the boardwalk. I’m sure I tried out those jet ski simulation games, the racing games, and the on-rail shooters, but nothing in particular comes to mind. As much as I loved video games, they were strangely the least appealing part of the arcade for me. I don’t know why, but I remember being drawn to a lot of crane games instead. They always had prizes I desperately wanted but could never win (that talent belonged to my sister), but I would always invest my money in the “play until you win” games so I could at least walk away with something. Ski ball and air hockey were also a lot of fun. Hell, any game that gave me tickets was appealing in its own way. I remember wanting to save up enough so I could get myself something really cool, like a Game Boy or a bike. Sadly, I could never get that many tickets. Still, it was nice to dream.
Speaking of video games, summer was special. I usually just played with my best friend next door (different best friend than the ones mentioned above who I fought with) for most of the year, but during the summer our cousins visited more often and slept over a lot, so we played a lot of multiplayer games. I still clearly remember being in his room with his cousins playing Mario Party 2 and trying to figure out how to play Mario Golf. I also remember playing Pokemon Stadium a lot, as well as Pokemon Snap and Pokemon Puzzle League. It’s a little weird because I don’t remember playing these games at any other time except summer, but we played the main Game Boy ones throughout the entire year. We also played a lot of Super Smash Bros. For whatever reason, that always seemed to bring a group of people together.
I remember renting a lot of games and movies, too. There was a cool video store in a nearby shopping plaza that we often walked to. I rented a handful of games, but honestly, the only one that immediately sticks out was Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Again, I have a pretty clear mental image of me and my next door neighbor playing the game in his room when I slept over one weekend. We played the game all night while his room was decked out like a tent.
Did anyone else do that as a kid? I don’t know if I got the idea from somewhere or I started doing it on my own, but one summer I started tacking up bed sheets to the walls to make my room seem like a tent. I put comforters on the floor, took all the extra pillows and blankets in the house, and made a cool camp-like hideout in my room. My parents didn’t like it, though. It was fine for us kids to come in, but it wasn’t really built for adults. But my best friend and sister liked it so much, they started doing it too, and I guess we decided to transform our rooms every summer. It sounds silly, but… there was something oddly comforting about it.
Sleepovers always seemed to happen in the summer, and at the time it was really exciting. To be at someone else’s house at night and first thing in the morning seemed so bizarre, but it was foreign and fun. Like, “Hey! You brush your teeth before going to bed, too!” Or, “Wow! You eat cereal out of a bowl just like I do!” (No, I’m not sure why things like this fascinated me. I was a strange kid.) I don’t know why it was something that happened almost exclusively during summertime. I guess parents had their hands full, taking us to different places in an attempt to keep us out of trouble, and making us somebody else’s problem for a night was their own little vacation.
You know, freedom and opportunity seem to be recurring themes here. The anxiety of school was out, my parents took my sister and I to a lot of fun places we wouldn’t normally go, and I’d spend more time with friends. When school was let out for the summer, it felt like I could do anything I wanted because I essentially had no responsibilities. Obviously things are different now, as an adult. I still have to go to work, like any other part of the year. And I’m no longer a student, so that sense of freedom at the end of the school year doesn’t exist.
Or does it? I used to dread summer because of some bad memories associated with it, but for the past few years I keep recalling my positive childhood memories. Something about the summer just seems… well, laid-back. Like maybe that’s the whole point of summer. Hell, even adults seem a little lazier during summertime. They tend to relax and see other people more instead of whining about how they’re tired after working. I don’t really have a reason to, but the approach of summer still makes me feel this odd sense of freedom and possibility.
So I think, overall, I’m actually looking forward to the summer. I don’t have any major plans but… well, maybe that’s the point.