It’s that time of year again…SUMMER VACATION! Yes, school is out, for most everyone, and the kidos don’t go back until the Fall. Is this the most dreaded time of year for a parent? Is dreaded because of the hassle of finding childcare, of trying to occupy the children’s time, or because, you know, the kids are at home? Something a friend of mine once told me just popped into my head; Big Sister Kimmie once offered up, “As long as you have kids, you’ll never be alone.” She wasn’t smiling when she said it.
I have plenty of friends with children. Over the years my friends have had varying reactions to summer vacation. Some looked forward to the kids being out of school, some fretted because they had to find babysitters, some hated summer break because their children were evil little hellspawns and couldn’t trust them by themselves or with babysitters. Nearly all of them, though, were excited for the first few weeks school was over. Okay, most were thrilled for at least a couple of days. I’ll be honest though, when the kids head back to school, almost every parent I know is so excited they could just fart.
If you will indulge me, I’d like to take a little time-out and saunter down memory lane. I can remember my summer vacations very well. Most of them anyway. As a grown up, much as I did as a kid, I can find mystery and horror practically anywhere I go. As a kid, though, I often acted them, playing as kids do. I grew up in the country, right next door to my grandparents. I was a major fan of the Lone Ranger, Indiana Jones, and James Bond, not to mention G.I. Joe, He-Man, Voltron, Tranzor Z, and Robotech. My grandfather let me have his bullwhips, and I was running from cannibals and headhunters in no time. I roamed the plains of the Old West, the deserts of Africa, alien planets, and often went behind the Iron Curtain on top secret missions for Her Majesty the Queen. I made quick getaways in clunky jeeps, space ships, and attacked enemy camps in their freakin’ tanks. All of this was done with just a bicycle, of course, but it was a trusty bicycle; it got me from planet to planet, across oceans, and over mountains, so I can’t complain. I’m sure if I rode one today, I wouldn’t be able to walk or sit, but that’s neither here nor there. There was always adventure around the corner, and there was forever something lurking in the woods.
One of my favorite things about the summers was staying up late. There was no school, so there was no real bedtime. Cha-ching! All the best horror movies came on after the ten o’clock hour, on the syndicated channels, normally right after The Andy Griffith Show. If there was nothing interesting showing, me and my brother would pop a tape into the VCR. The weekends were extra sweet because most of the time our mother wouldn’t let us rent movies from the video store until Friday; Video Corner had this deal, see, four movies for the weekend for an extra low price of like ten dollars or something. How awesomely sweet was that? Very awesomely sweet. And on those days when it was just unbearably hot, or the skies turned dark and the rain fell, there was oh so much comfort to be had in watching Friday the 13th and Aliens, or, really, anything with copious amounts of bloodshed and gore.
That’s what Summer has always been to me, a time to explore and slay dragons and drag unimaginable creatures from their dens kicking and screaming into the bright sunshine. To kill Bigfoot before he steals my grandmother’s chickens. That Sasquatch didn’t get his last meal. Thinking back over the years, I can only hope I instilled some of that “backyard mystery” and sense of wonder of the unknown in my niece and nephews. Seeing them now, all of them practically grown, I like to think I recognize it in them. I believe that if you can hold on to those playground mythologies and neighborhood legends, not only will you always be a kid at heart, but school’s out forever.