When I was a little kid growing up in a very small farm in Southern New Jersey, summers were very simple. They weren’t like the summers that the various Main Line kids I used to babysit have. Because these kids were born to parents with giant, paper calendars in their kitchens that graph out in ink the activities they’ve picked out for the little ones. Soccer. Violin. Reading lessons. Language school. Tap dancing. Ballet. Math camp. Summer camp. Activities, activities, activities. And when I used to babysit, I’d see the kids sigh and shake their heads in a manner too old for their age. They’d go to their parents with pleading eyes. “But I’m tired. Why can’t I just stay home?”
“Oh sweetie, you know you can’t do that! You don’t want to fall behind! Besides, mommy and dad have to work!” Nervous glance in my direction.
“But I’m tired!”
“I know, sweetie, why don’t you go watch your favorite Hannah Montana show, okay? I’ll get you some crackers.”
I always felt for my charges. Mini-adults whose every moment was accounted for. Those were the moments when I stopped being impressed by the mansions, the luxury SUVs and the designer suits…
My summers were a little different. My summers were about chores done early in the morning and late in the evening, so the sun’s rays wouldn’t get you. The chores? Weeding the one-acre garden my mother planted every summer. Sneaking peas and strawberries from the plants, hoping she wasn’t paying attention. She was, but she never minded. Picking hundreds of potato bugs off the potato plants with my cousins and then gleefully flushing them down the toilet. Washing the chickens’ water bowl with the garden hose and filling it with fresh, clean water. And after chores? Continue reading