Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Summer Synopsis




Today is August 29, 2015. 

All schools in the Valley of the Sun are finally in session.  Some started as early as August 3rd.  Most started the 24th.  I was raised in a small California town where school never started until the day after Labor Day.  Always September; never August.  I will never understand the August concept.  School gets out in May and starts in August?  No way...June was always the beginning of Summer for me.  Three glorious months of fun.  When the weather changed and the evenings and mornings were cooler and the smell in the air took on a different odor, we knew it was time to go shopping.  We purchased sweaters, hoodies, tights, boots, wool skirts, knit beanies, hand crocheted scarves and mittens.  Ok, maybe not mittens in California...  We lived at the foot of Mt Baldy, in a picturesque little town call Upland.  When the Baldy had snow on it, we felt it.  I learned all about sledding on that mountain.  When we walked to school in the mornings, there was a crispness in the air that I could never fully describe adequately.  It was perfect. 

In Arizona, we started the school year out in summer lightweight clothes and flip flops.  It was over 100 degrees for at least the first 2-3 months of school.  Right around Thanksgiving it would cool down. 

It's hard to go school clothes shopping when the stores all have their Fall and Winter clothing out, and its still 110 degrees.  No one wants to try on a jacket when its blistering hot out.  In good old AZ, we can live most of the year in sandals and flip flops (there is a difference...really).  White skirts may be taboo after Labor Day in the South and East Coast wardrobe, but not in AZ.  It's a bit easier to get by that rule when the sun is blazing day in and day out. 

You may think I'm crazy, but I carry a sweater with me all year long.  Everywhere I go.  Why?  Well, lets just say that since the temps outside are in the 100's for 3-4 months out of the year, the businesses seem to want to over compensate for that, and turn their a/c's down to 65 degrees.  So, you go from 110 outside into a very chilly atmosphere on a constant basis.  It doesn't matter if it's your work, your favorite coffee shop, your local diner or grocery store...even your church.  The worst places are the doctors offices.  They always try to make you think its to keep the germs away, but I think that's hogwash.  I have always said I would rather be cold than hot.  I only make that statement because when you're cold, you can always add more clothing.  When you're hot, there is only so much you can take off.  So...I always have something handy to put on when I walk into a building. 

I have absolutely no idea how I got off on that tangent...We were discussing summer.  I personally think I love Fall and Winter so much, simply because our Summers are so horrible.  If we had an ocean, I would definitely have a different outlook.  Lakes don't count...I've just never been a "lake" girl.  I might like it if I had a boat, and someone to drive the boat while I water-skied.  Yes, I do know how to ski.  I can hear you laughing all the way over here.  I learned how to ski when I was about 11 or 12 years old.  On Lake Havasu...I loved it.  I've only done it a few times since then, but I'm pretty sure I could still get up. 

I love the water...always have.  I suppose being born on the Eastern Shores of Maryland and then moving to the coast of California might have something to do with it.  So many memories that I have are of me in my yellow bathing suit, a plastic bucket filled with sand and sea shells, and the feeling of sinking in the sand as the waves returned back to the sea.  I remember washing the sand out of my hair, and the smell of Coppertone. 

Good times...

Two of my five grandchildren are in school.  They were so bored that last two weeks before school started that they were driving my daughter and son-in-law crazy.  Every time they said the word "bored" my daughter pointed them to the work/project wheel on the wall.  They had to pick something, and do it.  That typically would cause sighs and groans, but they were more cautious about saying they were bored.  They were so happy on that first day of school.  Hearing about all of there new classmates, teachers, projects, subjects and all of the new pencils, notebooks and paraphernalia was a complete joy for this Nana.  It made me wish I was back in school.  I was one of those "odd" children who actually LOVED school.  Everything about it was fun, challenging, exciting and new.  I only wish we could somehow remember every moment.  The older I get, the less I remember.  I am not completely naïve... I know there are things I wish I could forget...the occasional teasing for wearing modest clothes...(I was in Jr High and High School when the mini skirts and hot pants were the in thing)...being called "the Preachers Kid" and people thinking I was a nerd simply because I didn't go to the "desert parties" and carried a book and my flute around with me most of the time.  Playing the flute in the band had it's own set of "name calling" and eye rolling.  I loved the band.  I was very very good at what I did, which helped the "nay-sayers" keep there mouths shut.  The band members became my "friends" throughout Jr High and High School.  I also loved History and English.  Having a dad who was an English Professor and a minister helped immensely in that area.  Science and Math were a constant struggle.  It didn't get any better in college either. 

 Everything from lockers to lunchrooms, bleachers to marching band, libraries to literature...I loved it all.  The smell of the chalk and the feel of pen on paper all made me smile.  Hanging out in the library was a joy.  Practicing my flute for a competition after school was fun...Walking across the football field after the grass had just been cut, and marching band practice at 6 in the morning was exciting.  I didn't march in High School because I wasn't allowed to substitute the band uniform (pants) with a skirt.  Too dangerous... so I was in charge of putting the choreography for the routines together.  Lots of fun!  During football season we marched...until Spring Concert Season came along.  Long gowns for the girls and black tux's for the guys.  Big pieces like Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Rossini's William Tell Overture and Shostakovich's Festive Overture, just to name a few...so much fun; lots of hard work, but fantastic rewards.  I was in a little bit of heaven.  Our school not only won the Marching Band Superior awards, but we also went to Phoenix to compete.  We played at ASU Grady Gammage auditorium.  I remember being petrified.  I had a solo piece and they literally had to come get me out of the bathroom when it was time to go on stage.  We tied for 1st place.  I can't even remember which High School we tied with, but I learned a great lesson that day.  There really was no need to be nervous...I couldn't even see the people in the audience because of the way the lighting was.  I wish I had known that before hand...It would have saved me a lot of frightening moments.   

This post has turned out to be my own school/childhood memories...  what happened to Summer?  I had terrific summers growing up.  Can anyone say Road-Trips?  Yes, my family took some mind-blowing road-trips.  We're not talking just up the Highway 1 Coastline of California, although that is a great road-trip in and of itself...we are talking driving from California to the East Coast kind of road-trips.  900 miles a day!  My mom was the greatest driver of all times.  Her nickname was Gloria Andretti.  Dad was paralyzed on the left side and couldn't drive, so mom was the chauffer, connoisseur.  We either left in the middle of the night, or we were picked up from school and left from their, only to arrive back two weeks before school began.  Just in time for shopping. :) 

Remember me mentioning that my dad was a minister?  Well, these road-trips were always planned in such a way that daddy would be preaching a weekend service for little churches all along the way.  So Friday, Saturday and Sunday's were all about the church services.  We practiced songs in the car, and my sister and I would sing at church.  On Monday's we would typically head out for the next church destination.  Sounds boring?  Not a chance.  In between church times, we would hit highlight spots like amusement parks; with mind-bending roller coasters, and crazy delicious foods.  We would stop at all the historical places.  Daddy loved teaching us along the way.  Gettysburg was always a moving experience.  New York City, Washington D.C., were two of my all time favorites.  History and fun all in one.  Walking up the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and sitting at the feet of Mr. Lincoln at his memorial.  Staring up at the Washington Monument and wondering who had the nerves of steel to build it.  I hadn't seen the Twin Towers yet!  Wondering through the Smithsonian in complete and total jaw dropping surprise; and wondering how on earth the soldier at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier could keep such a straight face with all the funny looking people that stopped buy to visit.  I have nothing but respect for that guy. 

Williamsburg was a visit we took when I was a teenager.  I loved it.  Remember how I said I was a little odd?  Well, really, what teen loves Williamsburg?  I did.  Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia and St Augustine, Florida were places I visited again as an adult.  I remembered why I fell in love with that part of the country.  It had history; tradition; timelessness; romance.  Now I'm not saying I didn't love the California life too, but I have to admit that when my dad decided to move us out of CA and on to another chapter in our life (AZ), at the time I didn't think he was making the right decision.  I was 12 and thought I knew what was best for me.  I was very upset.  He plunked us down in a place that might as well have been another planet.  I had never even seen a cactus up close and personal before.  Brown and tan were not my favorite colors, and I was of Norwegian heritage and therefore, the constant hot sun was going to wreak havoc on my fair skin.  I didn't know that at the time, but it would have made a pretty good argument, I'm sure.  Dad had never led us wrong before, so as I sat in the backseat of the yellow station wagon driving through the desert where it had just snowed in February,  I came to the conclusion that he wouldn't start now.  The landscape did look a bit surreal though.  Dad loved his family, and only wanted the best for us.  Little did I know, that within a short period of time, I would have a really wonderful friend; be a part of a great church youth group and find out how much I liked monsoon season!  Transferring into a new junior high school was tough, but the Lord sent Lavenia Watkins to the rescue.  She was my guardian angel, and wouldn't let anyone mess with me.  I fell a little bit in love with my band director, Mr. Martinez (he was so handsome, and a flute player)...He ended up giving me my first real professional flute lessons.  Thank you mom and dad.  I found out what a "challenge" was, and quickly became 1st chair flutist.  When you "challenged" the chair ahead of you, it meant that you had a set time where you went in the directors office and he was able to pull out any piece of music he wished, and we had to sight read it.  Most of the time it was something I had never seen before.  Very stressful.  After each of us played the piece, he would let us know who won.  I loved every second of it, even though I felt like throwing up every single time. 

I didn't mean for this to turn into a synopsis of my school life...trust me.  I have to admit though, after writing this much, it makes me hope my own grandchildren get to have as many beautiful childhood memories as I have had.  Just when you think your life is boring, over, done, finished and horribly in a rut, its rather nice to go back and remind myself what a good life God allowed me to have.  If I never went on another road trip for the rest of my life, I'm more than grateful for all the ones I've already had.  If I never get to run along the sandy shores of the beach again, I'll always remember how it made me feel.  Writing this post has reminded me how lucky and blessed I am.  I had an awesome childhood. Now I'm seriously hoping to have at least one or two more road trips and beach runs before time runs out...all I'm really saying, is that I'm grateful. 

So I'm praying that if time goes on,  my children and  grandchildren will have the same thing to say when they are my age.  Reminiscing is a great way to spend an afternoon.  Remembering the simpler times in life can make the long hot, dog-days of Summer feel like a sweet cool breeze.  That's what I just did...Sitting in in my favorite little coffee shop on a hot 106 degree day.  Clicking away on my laptop, listening to Shostakovich's Festive Overture played by the Boston Philharmonic Symphony through my ear buds and drinking a great cappuccino, I'm reminded that life is good.  

September is right around the corner..I'm very excited, and who knows, maybe I'll be doing a synopsis on Fall fairly soon.  I might talk about family dinners, granddaughter sleepovers and grandson marshmallow roasts; the start of a new book; pumpkin dump cake; opened window at night, flannel pj's, pumpkin spice lattes and long walks.  My favorite time of year is quickly approaching...so many things I would love to do this Fall.  The dreaming is about to start... 

Looking forward to whatever the good Lord has planned. 

Enjoying the journey,

Pam

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