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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Endless Summer Nights

Yes. You are not imagining it. That is the title of a cheesy 80's Richard Marx song. Sue me. I like it. It just got to me thinking about the waning days of Summer. Here it is August and it seems as if another Summer has flown by me. I tend not to notice as much as when I was a kid because there was no impending doom of a new school year just on the horizon. As an adult I'm a bit indifferent to the seasons, but I dread the falling of leaves as I have a huge canopy of trees over a majority of my yard. While I like the warmer weather, Pennsylvania Summers are anything but typical. Whether it be Global Warming or a cyclical meteorological shift it seems as if Summer comes later and stays longer than it used to. It's so wonky around here in the Fall and Spring, and for that matter even Winter is atypical. We have warmer weather way into October, snow in May, and all kinds of schizophrenic weather patterns throughout the year.

But when I was young, Summer was magical. Of course it was. I was out of school for three months with little responsibility other than being home when the street lights came on in the evening. We'd get up early, eat breakfast, and we'd be gone all day long. There was no online deathmatch play in Yars Revenge or Pitfall. Atari's didn't have games that would keep you glued to your television screens for hours on end, day after day. We had hide and seek, kick ball, baseball, and war games to keep us busy. And when we went on family vacations, oh joy, it was even more magical. Now, we could play outside on the beach or in the campgrounds. That's where I related the term "Endless Summer Nights." Ok, the song is more about a summer love story. Just stay with me. Eventually, adolescence arrived and the beach became a feast for the eyes with bikinis and tanning. As a teen you noticed everything. Well, looking back now I feel more like Pete Townsend, but you get the idea.

Now, that being said, did you ever have a Summer that you compared all Summers against? Was it one where you met someone and in that short week you felt so many butterflies in your stomach and the smile could hardly be wiped from your face? Was it like the opening to Grease? Did you keep in touch with them with letters and phone calls for as long as possible? Me, too. Unfortunately, with fast approaching middle age, I've begun to lose hold of all the memories that shaped my childhood Summers. But I do recall some. There was a short period of about two years where I went on vacation with a friend and his family to Myrtle Beach. It was like nothing I had even seen before. Long clean beaches, people everywhere, tons of things to do wherever you turned. At first the trip felt as if it was going to be a snooze fest. It was a Saturday and the transition between people leaving and people arriving was at its apogee. We were so bored. By Tuesday I was climbing the walls. We hadn't met any other kids to run around with when I sustained an injury playing basketball in the court at our condo. I sustained that injury because his nearly six foot tall, 160 pound frame stepped on my foot while I was going backwards causing me to hit the pavement from the sudden stop in momentum. Frustrated, I told my friend I needed to just take a walk and clear my head. Really, I was beginning to believe that he was holding me back and that I had a better chance of meeting up with girls on my own. I was an ass, I know. I walked the beach in front of our condo where I happened upon two girls sitting on the railing of some steps. I made the bold and unprecedented decision to just walk up and ask if I could join them. To my shock, they allowed me, and we struck up a conversation. Soon, we were laughing and joking and I was starting to feel a whole lot better.

A few minutes later, a ruckus erupted behind me as a small cavalcade of kids came clamoring out of the condo behind us. It was apparent that these two girls already knew the group which included a handsome young lad which gave me pause. There was no way I was going to be able to compete with this guy. He was too smooth. To my surprise, my lead footed friend numbered among the youths. We put our differences aside as we seemed to have the same idea and joined up with the group forming a posse of mischief makers. From then on, we were all inseparable. We were early to rise and late to bed. We spent hours in the water transitioning from the cool pool of the condo to the surf of the ocean. After dinner with our respective elders, we'd meet up again for more hijinks. Soon, I formed a bond with a girl in the group and I was awed that she didn't set her sights on the sleeker Casanova of our ranks. We talked and laughed and just enjoyed each other's company for the remaining two days of our stay. As we reached the end of our trip, we said our goodbyes and on the morning of our departure, my friend and I wandered the beach in search of signs of life. The girls had left, our friends had left, the beach was empty as the week long beach goers loaded up their wagons and hit the Interstates home. The was a calm quiet that fell over the shore. The surf seemed louder in the silence left by the exodus of tourists. We made our way back to the empty condo and loaded our things into the car for home. As we left our condo we could see the stream of new tourists arriving for their week of fun and sun. Kids exited the vehicles which had held them hostage for hours, stretching a bit before darting off towards the water. The changing of the guard had taken place. A new set of memories were about to be made. We suddenly felt as if we were as old as the sea watching with a far off twinkle in our eyes.

The trip home was filled with short naps in tune to the sounds of my Walkman. As a new side clicked into play I drifted off into the realm of sleep meant for recollection of memories. I played the week over in my head etching it into my brain. Clutched in one hand was the address of my new friend who I immediately kept in touch with upon arrival home and from then on for a few years. Somehow, the rest of the Summer seemed mundane and uneventful. It was if nothing could compare to that brief adventure at the beach. The only thing that excited me was a new letter and pictures from my friend. But as it always is, the frequency of letters began to diminish and new experiences replace those we held in so high regard. Those memories are relegated to a footnote in our minds or in a blog entry.

Now, I look back and I can barely remember names and faces from that time. I'm sure they've all gone on and had families by now. Perhaps as we watch our kids grow and make memories of their own during a vacation to the beach we remember some of that magic we once felt as kids. During some free time we may do a search on Facebook or Classmates trying to find that person but can't quite remember what city they lived in as a kid or how to spell their last name. Maybe we'll find some small clue that will reconnect us, as adults, to those "Endless Summer Nights."

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