As a school year winds down for me, as an educator, my thoughts begin to shift to the summertime and the activities it will hold. When I was younger and still a student, summer always meant going to the beach and making a week-long trip to my grandmother’s house in the Virginia mountains. As I grew older and got married, summer meant taking trips to new places with husband and in-laws, as well as celebrating a wedding anniversary every July 16. In the more recent times, since having our daughter, summer now means spending time with her, making trips to the library for story time, going to the pool, making travel memories with her, and celebrating her birthday every July 20. Despite the changing activities of each summer, the end of May/beginning of June signifies a new sense of freedom and relaxation for a couple of months. Evenings won’t have to be rushed through with dinner, homework, bath, and bedtime. We can stay up a little later, stay outside to play a little bit longer, read a few more stories before bedtime, or make an impromptu family trip to the local ice cream place in the evening. Though I do enjoy the wonders of autumn and winter, summer holds a special place in my heart with its memories and good times.
My earliest summer memories involve family trips to see extended family or traveling with extended family for a week at the beach. When I was young, my dad’s side of the family always had a family reunion in the summer. Those occasions included seeing my first and second cousins, aunts and uncles, playing games outside (volleyball, badminton, or baseball), having family sing-a-longs with my dad and uncles and aunt leading either instrumentally or vocally, and eating lots of yummy foods. I think a dessert I first remember being my favorite as a child was the cherry cheesecake made by my Aunt Carreen.
Other childhood memories of summer include week-long trips to the beach with my mom, aunt, and cousins and friends. If you’re local enough to know the area of Myrtle Beach, then you might have heard of Apache Campground in North Myrtle, which boasts the longest pier on the East Coast (or at least, back then it did). I spent a week most summers with my family at the Apache Campground, where we spent our days sleeping, lounging on the beach, spending hours in the ocean with my cousin, reading books, and enjoying the pleasure of salt air and a perpetual coastal breeze. We didn’t spend our days shopping or seeking out activities to stay busy – we were there to purposefully be “un-busy.” J My other childhood summer memory includes a trip to my grandmother’s house in the Alleghany Mountains of Virginia. My grandmother’s house sits on the bank of the Cowpasture River, a pure and clear country river that runs over beds of black slate or smooth river rocks. There is no mud or grass on the bottom, so it was always easy to go into the river and enjoy hours of playing and floating. When my cousin and I were young, we spent the majority of our time playing in the river, with our grandmother nearby to supervise.
When we weren’t outside, we liked to spend our time watching old movies (like The Sound of Music and Big Business – both of which I can still quote today), making trips to the K-Mart in the next “big” town over, or going to the local camping post in the Douthat State Park to get specialty flavored ice cream. The days and weeks of these summers were simple, but they gave me wonderful and special memories.
When I met my (now) husband and we became serious enough to be included in each other’s family vacations, I began to travel to very new and far locations. I experienced my first long commercial flight on a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii with a stopover in San Francisco. This was the summer after we graduated from high school, and with a little bit of financial help from my parents, it was my graduation gift from my (now) in-laws. I experienced a lot of culture shock and travel anxiety, but that first trip ignited my passion for traveling. I remember the first flight of that trip occurred on Friday, July 13, and though I’d never been superstitious of a Friday the 13th, I was nervous that day! Since that first trip, in following summers with the Vosses, I’ve been to theme parks in Orlando, Florida; Cancun, Mexico; Acapulco, Mexico; Aruba; Calgary/Banff, Canada; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana; and the ultimate trip that took us to Ireland. I learned a great deal about my (now) husband and (now) in-laws on these trips, including how giving and adventurous they were. We did some arguing at times, but we’ve also done a ton of laughing and loving while on those incredible summer trips.
After my husband and I got married, our summers held the focal point of our wedding anniversary. On our honeymoon, we traveled to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, a beautiful Caribbean location with white sand beaches, turquoise blue water, and for me, a place to catch a nasty stomach bug from the water in the fresh fruit! It was still a beautiful honeymoon.
Since then, we have celebrated wedding anniversaries with trips to Charleston, South Carolina; Boston, Massachusetts; Washington D.C. and Savannah, Georgia. Last year our anniversary occasion led us back to the place that means relaxation, peace, and comfort: my grandmother’s house in Virginia. Anniversary summer travels continued to create great memories and make me feel so blessed to experience new places with the love of my life.
As if summers were not exciting enough in our lives, our daughter arrived four days after our 6th wedding anniversary on July 20, 2011. That summer holds an abundance of memories, including the unpleasant latter weeks of pregnancy, as well as the wild and difficult days of new parenthood. However, in the following summer, we picked up our tradition of vacationing and made a long car trip to the eastern coast of Florida for our daughter’s first experience with traveling, vacationing, and the beach! As a family, we experienced the stresses of traveling with a baby, but we also discovered the joy of a new dynamic and new meaning with the family vacation. The next year took us to the coast of North Carolina, to the beautiful southern portion of the Outer Banks. As a family, our activities usually revolved around Ella Grace and having her experience new things, but much joy was taken in giving her experiences and seeing her reaction of happiness and wonderment.
While summer travels and vacations make irreplaceable memories, I’m also appreciative for the simple, everyday memories of summer. Last year, with Ella Grace being two years old, I was able to do “real” activities with her, like taking trips to a local park and its awesome playground, as well as her first trip to the library, for which she did an incredible job of having self-control and being quiet – tasks that can’t be easy for a toddler. We made trips to get ice cream in the warm, balmy evenings, and we spent lazy mornings watching cartoons and playing with her toys. I won’t have these types of summer days for many more summers. I imagine that as Ella Grace gets older, her summers will become full of summer camps, activities with friends, and her own agenda for her social life. But until the times come when she wants to depart from the family to make her own memories, I will cling to our sweet, summer days together and cherish the special times we are having.