Do you remember when summer used to be half the year? I don’t think I noticed that it was only three months until well into high school. Summers meant swimming, softball, staying up late, sleeping in, odd jobs for spending money, and reading – reading as many books as possible. Summer was wonderful.
In grade school I loved westerns (covered wagon stories, Kit Carson, and all the Zane Grey novels I could get my hands on) and mysteries (Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden.) My best friend and I cleaned a motel swimming pool one summer for a little cash and free use of the pool. We cleaned in the mornings and then sat by the pool during the afternoon, reading. When we’d had enough chlorine and sun, we’d go over to the motel restaurant to drink large cokes and eat chips and salsa.
In high school my reading tastes shifted a little. I discovered biographies. My favorite subjects were Abraham and Mary Lincoln, Golda Meir, Amelia Earhart, Mary Queen of Scots, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Yeah, I was all over the place, but that was half the fun. I also discovered true crime (In Cold Blood, Helter Skelter) and the bittersweet romance of Danielle Steele. Ms. Steele made me cry every time.
I worked one summer for the National Park Service. I’d spend a couple of hours in the morning at the lake, swimming and reading, and then I’d get ready for work. I had the 3:00 pm to midnight shift at a campground. I was supposed to collect camping fees and make sure nobody disturbed the peace by playing their boom boxes too loudly or engaging in public screaming matches with their spouses. I also had to keep the campground kiosk open in case someone had an emergency and I needed to radio for help (this was pre-cell phone days folks.). But it was a slow summer, the springs at the campground were dry and the tourists preferred the lake. Mostly I sat alone in the kiosk, a small rock building with windows on all sides. People could see me, but because of the forested darkness outside, I couldn’t see them. I sat there, night after night and read the scariest stuff Stephen King had to offer. That was a great summer!
I still like to read all kinds of fiction, although I read less since I started writing. I was shopping on Saturday for a Father’s Day gift and books were at the top of my list. I picked up the latest Lee Child novel for my Dad and couldn’t resist grabbing a paperback mystery for myself. The book, The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid, had a lake scene on the cover and a blurb from one of my favorite authors promising it was “irresistible.”
If I get a sunny afternoon this next week, I might play hooky from work, lay in a lounge chair in the backyard with my book and pretend I’m on summer vacation from school. No bills to pay, no career to worry about, no deadlines looming. I won’t even notice that the lawn will need mowing again and that my deck could use a coat of fresh paint. I’m going to ignore all that and do a little time traveling – back to when summers lasted half the year.