The west coast has given me so much over the past few years; new friends, an amazing job, adventures and independence. I'm grateful for my time here and truly love living in this corner of the world. But after spending a few days back in my hometown this weekend I was reminded that there is one thing the west coast can never give me...something beyond the obvious answers of family, childhood friends, history, etc...
Summer nights. June summer nights. That time in the evening when the BBQ dinner plates have been cleared from the porch table. When tummies are full of watermelon, corn on the cob, grilled fish/chicken/beef/veggies...grilled anything, really. That time of sharing popsicle desserts on the front stoop; fingers and lips sticky with the melting flavors of fruit. The bubble blowing and chalk art on the driveway. One last lap around the block on my bike before the sun finishes setting. A few last minutes on the hammock with a book or my sister, swinging in a gentle rhythm. Hide and Seek in the dark with neighborhood friends--racing barefoot to find the best hiding places. Watching the backyard twinkle with the greenish glow of lightening bugs (and the subsequent chasing of these little creatures to fill up a jar). Taking in the occasional thunder storm from the front step; the sky momentarily lighting up the neighborhood, the smell of rain mixed with cooling blacktop and freshly cut grass. "Just 10 more minutes, Mom!". Sleepovers in the clubhouse, scary stories told with flashlights. Taking a shower after a long day at the beach, changing into only an over sized t-shirt while letting my hair hang wet on my shoulders, leaving damp marks just below my collar bone. The lingering smell of sunscreen. Sleeping with the windows open and a fan running; humming a calm tune to accompany the symphony of crickets outside. Using just the sheets--cool, comfortable, soothing.
It's true what they say. When we're kids all we want to do is grow up, but once we are grown we pine for the days of worry free play and simple childhood pleasures. I am a true June baby--addicted to the shift in temperature and energy. The rush of the school year slowing down for a few weeks before the real heat of summer swoops in. June has always been my favorite month. It also happens to be my birthday month, so perhaps the rapidly approaching day of turning 27 is why I'm feeling especially nostalgic for my New Jersey June nights.
While I know this makes me sound like quite the old lady, I wish that kids would (could?) cherish the days before adulthood more. I wish we would teach them to be present...to be *kids*, first and foremost. I wish we would tell them, as Don Herold said, "If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted a little earlier in the spring and stay that way a little later in the fall." I'm grateful my parents valued June summer nights as much as I do--that they encouraged my sister and me to find our joy in mud pies, kiddie pools and backyard camping--instead of video games, TV or computers. That they always gave us those "just 10 more minutes".
I wish all of this for the children in my life, present and future. I wish them hours of laughter and play outdoors. I wish them grass stained knees, sun kissed skin and salt water tangled hair.
I wish them east coast June summer nights.