Growing up, my family wasn’t “well off.” We didn’t go out to eat often, and when we did, it was a special treat to go to McDonald’s. My parents grew our own veggies in a garden, and my mom sewed all of our clothes; not because it was trendy, but because it was a necessity. We didn’t have memberships to the zoo or the children’s museum, and my parents certainly could not afford for us to belong to the local country club pool. We only went on a handful of vacations during my childhood, and those vacations often were in combination with extended family or staying with family as to save money.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I had an epiphany.
While I have been wracking my brain trying to think of fun stuff for my kid to do to make his summer special, the answer was right in front of me. We could fill our summer with things we loved back in the day when Scott & I were kids!
In today’s digital age of social media, it is so easy for us to become wrapped up in what everyone else is doing. Like I mentioned earlier this year, media sites like Facebook or Instagram sometimes perpetuate FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out). Somewhere in the last 30 years, simple things in life have been replaced with video games, social media, texting instead of talking, and scheduling every minute for our kids.
My parents made the most of what we had available to us. Our lives were so much richer, not with money or things, but with LIFE. I realized that those simple things were what made my childhood so special. It was over the holiday weekend that I discovered that all of those seemingly simple things that don’t cost much (if anything) were memories my son would hold onto. What he cares about are those LITTLE things: uninterrupted time to do silly things that I hope make him feel rich with love from his family, just like when I was a kid.
For the first time in five years, we didn’t go to the beach for Memorial Weekend. It had become our yearly ritual, and since we went to Disney just a few weeks before, our budget didn’t allow for us to take another trip so close to the original one. Instead, we stuck close to home and just sort of kept it spontaneous for the weekend. We filled our weekend with activities that didn’t cost anything.
That Saturday morning we decided to go fishing, right down the road in the Bonnet Carre Spillway. We let Andrew cast his fishing rod in the water while we put out crab nets. We observed minnows swimming, crabs creeping up the bank, and we even caught a few too! Hearing doves coo and seeing fish jump and splash in the water brought me back to my childhood fishing in that very same spot, as my parents took us fishing often. Andrew even caught a fish, and that just made his day!
That afternoon, while boiling the crabs, Andrew took hold of the garden hose, and started to water the flower beds, something I let him do often as one of his chores. Instead, we let him play with the hose and spray it everywhere. I let my concerns about an already expensive water bill fade as I watched him giggle and laugh uncontrollably while he sprayed me, his dad, and the dog. I taught him how to drink out of the hose, and when he tasted that water the look on his face was priceless. I realized, at that moment, while I stood dripping with wet clothes, that it was moments just like that that I remember most about my summers as a kid.
I remember going to bed that Monday night feeling so fulfilled because we had spent a great weekend together making memories. That night, after we put him to bed, I started to catalog a list of those simple pleasures of the summer from my childhood.
I remember we used to pack up coolers and a picnic lunch and head over to the spillway to pick blackberries. Every time I eat a blackberry and feel it burst in my mouth, I am immediately transported back to being 6 years old, my fingers pricked and stained purple with blackberry juice, and then being in the kitchen with my mom helping her make a cobbler with our berries.
I vividly remember pitching a tent in our backyard during the summer months and going camping in the backyard. My favorite part was hearing bullfrogs and crickets sing back and forth, and of course, pretending to be out in the woods. Since we didn’t have a pool, I remember creating a makeshift slip n’ slide out of plastic sheeting, the garden hose and some dish liquid that would result in HOURS of crazy summer fun. Snack time would usually be taking breaks from the slide, to pick tomatoes off the vine or peaches from the tree, biting into them, their sweet, ripe juices dripping down my arm. Or if it was a rainy day, my mom would let me build a “fort” in the house with blankets and chairs, and I would curl up and read one of my books from the library.
Ever since my epiphany two weeks ago, I decided to create a list of simple summer pleasures to share with my family. I want my son to grow up with joyful memories of being slick with dish soap from the slip n’ slide, or having sticky, drippy elbows from eating a slice of watermelon. I want him to remember laying next to me in the cool green grass while we look up to the sky to find shapes in the fluffy cotton ball clouds.
I want to experience that again, for him, and for me, too. Those summer memories from my childhood are some of the ones I hold dearest. Staying home for the weekend and filling it with fun that didn’t cost us anything made me realize that simple pleasures can make the summer memorable and special.