Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shoebox Opened Gateway to Summer

Summer in NYC | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
I must have been reminiscing...
AGAIN...just before I snapped this
photo of my youngest several
summers ago in NYC.
It is the first official day of summer vacation. Well, for our high schooler it is. For our oldest, it's just a day off of work. For our middle child, it is time to study for mid-terms during his summer session. Summer vacation is losing its luster around our place as our boys age out of childhood. 

Summer vacation was magical when I was a child. I remember walking home with a shoebox filled with the junk I'd cleaned out of my desk. It smelled of used crayons, pencil shavings, and wet paper. As I walked along the path through the circle of woods that separated our home from the bus stop, Clinton Road, and the lake, the contents of the box bounced around. The sound it made could be described as a deep-voiced jangle. That sound, those smells, and the sunlight dancing through the fresh green leaves on an afternoon on which I did not need a sweater or jacket meant it was officially summer vacation.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom. So for my siblings and me, summer vacation meant swimming lessons at Bubbling Springs, excursions to see the grandmas, family camping adventures, and day trips to the shore. 
Swimming at Grandma's | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
One of my cousins preparing to submerge
into the icy waters of my grandparents' pool. 

One set of grandparents lived in the New Jersey suburbs of NYC. They had a big yard, a tire swing, and a pool. If it was officially summer and the sun was out, we jumped in that pool. We didn't care if the water temperature was still hovering in the mid-60s. 

My mom's mom, our granny, lived in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan. Visits with her meant subway rides, perusing the sale racks at Ohrbach's, and street vendor cuisine for lunch. I loved the sound of my footsteps echoing in the hallway as we walked to her apartment. 

Summer vacation also meant building forts in the woods on warm summer days or out of blankets and furniture when it rained. It meant reading contests with my cousins. It meant sitting with dad in the screen house when he got home from work, trying to convince him we should keep the kitten that followed me home during the last week of school. 

It meant scrapes and bruises from falls off bikes and out of trees. It meant lots of calamine lotion for bug bites. It meant cool aloe for sunburn. It meant splinters from tree houses and Uncle Frankie's new pool deck. It meant moms and dads, aunts and uncles, and grandmas and grandpas saying, "Oh, you're fine. You'll live. Go back out and play." 

I loved the impromptu gatherings of all the kids in our makeshift, dirt road neighborhood that morphed into wiffle ball games at our house, flashlight tag at AnnMarie's house, or touch football at Brad's house. We played our hearts out, pausing only to rehydrate with the garden hose. We were always late for dinner on those days. 

As I walked home with that shoebox, I knew there were fireflies to collect in jars, caterpillars to coax into becoming butterflies, and wild berries to forage. I knew it was going to be a great summer. 

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
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