Happy 4th! What You Need to Cherish (and Read) This Summer!
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
As I near 50, I’ve come to appreciate that some of the most memorable moments from my childhood were not only the simplest but also quintessentially summer: Bobbing down ice-cold streams in innertubes with my mom; fishing a quiet, deep hole with my grampa; marching in 4th of July parades, my giant trombone blaring “You’re A Grand Old Flag”; Jack Buck calling a Cardinals game over the radio; roasting marshmallows over roaring bonfires; watching fireworks boom in a night sky; reading a great book (or cheesy paperback); and making homemade ice cream, drooling while staring at that slowly rotating churn, praying for time to fly.
Well, those final prayers were granted: Time did fly, and life changed. And, sadly, so does summertime as you become an adult. We work during most of those precious weeks of glimmering sunshine. We shuttle children to the activities in which we once participated. We slide summer in when we can, like a much needed nap.
I used to take two weeks of vacation every summer and cram in as much fun as I could. I would hit city waterparks and pools, pack picnics and fight traffic to watch mammoth urban 4th of July fireworks spectaculars. I would take weeklong beach vacations, saving the other week for travel during the holidays.
But there always seemed to be something missing: That Norman Rockwell nostalgia – that feeling summer would last forever – which existed in my youth I believed that could never be rediscovered.
And then I moved to the coast of Michigan. I knew the move meant I would rediscover a slower pace away from the constant buzz of city life, but I was surprised to rediscover that slice of Americana pie, that simple beauty and nostalgic wonder that makes summer special.
In my little resort towns of Saugatuck-Douglas, I rediscovered small-town parades, complete with marching bands and hard candy thrown by kids; art festivals; lazy beach days floating in the water that led to lazy nights roasting hot dogs and marshmallows; reading a great novel (or cheesy paperback) in a hammock strung between two pine trees; farmer’s markets and fruit stands; musicians playing from a white gazebo in a park by the water.
Through this rediscovery, I rediscovered me.
Yes, I still work most summer days. In fact, now that I work for myself as a fulltime author, I seem to work harder, longer days than I ever did before, without giving myself a break. And I often travel too much away from the place that I love.
But I now find myself on summer days not sitting in an office tower, or board meeting – praying for time to fly so I could reach those precious two weeks – but writing in my office overlooking a forest of ferns and pines, or hauling my laptop to the screen porch, the roar of the lake in the distance. I savor my summer, even while working. My lunch hour is a long run along the lakeshore with a short swim in the lake, a jaunt to the local farmer’s market, or an extended break to hit the beach. Though busy, I no longer have to cram in summer hungrily, like a melting twist cone.
In addition to rediscovering the nostalgia of summer, I have also rediscovered what I now consider to be the most precious summer gift of all: Perspective. I have the ability to understand that – although I’ve grown older, much older, much too quickly – that the most memorable moments of life – the ones that equal any book deal, TV appearance or large lecture – are the simplest. Yes, the grand moments provide a gilded frame to life, but it is the small details that make the portrait so beautiful.
Which is why, as I sit on my screen porch reading a book and listening to the sounds of summer – the moaning frogs, the whippoorwills, the crickets, the baseball game, and, of course, my old ice cream maker – I no longer pray for time to go faster, I no longer rush the magic of summer.
I sigh, I smile and I simply wait for the ice cream maker to slow.
What Wade's Reading This Summer (while waiting for my ice cream)!
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Yes, I know I'm late to the game here, but it is a stunning read – thrilling and so beautifully written at the same time. The novel is not only haunting me at the current moment but also making me jealous of Gillian's gifts.
Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer
The perfect summer beach read from the "Queen of Beach Books." The novel is about two childhood friends who drift apart but find they are forever bound by the beach and to each other. Nancy writes lyrically of her home.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I re-read a classic every summer, and this is my all-time favorite. Holden's voice and take on the world, adults, fitting in, wealth, love and death are brilliant. Moreover, Salinger's messages about pressure and expectations still feel so spot-on and important today.