2007-06-13 / Front Page

30 Something Else

Summertime memories: Simple pleasures are the best ones
Chrissy Gerity

30 Something Else
Summertime memories: Simple pleasures are the best ones
Chrissy Gerity

It's not even 6 a.m., and I'm wondering if we should turn on the air conditioning in our house. I can hear the sweet sounds of the birds' morning chirps. A silver gray shade is just beginning to illuminate the sky. I realize the last day of school for the children is only a matter of days away. I could spend a considerable amount of time wondering how the winter days managed to slip by so fast, but this is one of my favorite times of the seasons when I'd rather recall some of my favorite summertime memories ... it reminds me of those hot summer-weather days in late spring when I'd be staring out the window of my fourth-grade classroom, anticipating the last hours of the school year ...

With the last days of grade school quickly approaching, I'd sit at my tiny, wooden school desk and stare impatiently out the window, with drops of sweat forming on my forehead. The old-fashioned metal fan's breeze wasn't even blowing in my direction, and the sound of the blades turning helped me to easily drift off into daydreams of what the summer was going to be like.

Unlike the kids who came from wealthy families and thought nothing of it when they'd mention their out-of-country itineraries and expensive vacations, I'd sit there and think to myself how I couldn't wait to just open up an "iced-cold, old-fashioned bottle of Coca-Cola" ... something I watched my father do, something I heard my father say, something that became my own thing to look forward to every summer.

These memories of summer are some I will never forget, some of which will never lose their sentiment. On any given warm-weathered Friday, our father would pick us up after school in his big, red, Ford Supercab. This truck was so old, it had rust holes in the floorboard ... holes so big, that my brother and I would amuse ourselves by dropping pieces of food out through them when we thought our father wasn't looking, and watch them get sucked down and splattered onto the road. Dad would tease us about the holes, warning us we might fall through them if we weren't careful, and we believed him for many years.

Off to somewhere with no particular destination, we'd go. Still in our Catholic-school uniforms ... me in my white collared-shirt and green plaid skirt ... and, of course, a tank-top and pair of shorts conveniently underneath, ready for play. If we needed sneakers or a pair of flip-flop sandals, there was no stopping off at home for them. We learned how to make the best of it.

Dad liked to stop at Laneco, a supermarket in Easton, Pa., - a stop my siblings and I had learned to look forward to. Laneco had everything a kid could want ... food, toys, clothing (yes, and flip-flops), and it even had a pizza shop in it with arcade games. It was unlike any store we had ever seen. The Laneco stop became traditional; it was the first stop we'd make, and we always loaded up on the same things - lunch meat, bread, pickles, salads, chips, and of course old-fashioned bottles of Coca-Cola - bottles we'd return, when we were done, for 5-cent refunds.

Eating lunch-meat sandwiches wasn't the big deal, but having tailgate picnics in a parking lot or on a country-side road with our Dad was unbeatable. In between bites, we'd play Wiffle ball, toss a Frisbee around, and get sticky hands from blowing bubbles ... oh, the fun we had!

With nothing but the clothes we left right out of school with, and coolers full of lunch meat and soda, we'd drive for hours, learning to enjoy and appreciate the "scenic route." Dad seemed to have known of every state park and water park in the United States, but he also knew where all the cows and horses were. He knew where to find a farmers' market for fresh strawberries, and where to buy postcards to give to our friends back at home.

Sometimes, when school was officially out and we took longer drives, Dad would throw a mattress in the bed of the truck or we'd bring sleeping bags, so we could try to sleep while he was driving. But the excitement of having to hold on or huddle in the center close to the truck kept us from tiring out. We'd wave to the truckers and get Dad to talk to them on the CB radio, and we got such a kick out of that. We'd have our Walkman cassette players, too ... listening to Madonna or Beastie Boys or whatever was the top '80s band at the moment.

My sister and I wore those cut-off shorts, tank-tops, high-top sneakers and rubber bracelets up our arms; my brother wore his rolled-up sweatpants and white T-shirt. And while my sister's hair wouldn't move from the amount of Aquanet hair spray she'd used, my brother and I would wear our baseball caps. I do remember a sad moment during one of our trips - losing one of my favorite baseball caps to the wind when I reached over to the cooler for a bottle of Coca-Cola. Dad was not turning back for that either.

No matter the destination, we'd always come home with the same wonderful memories that will last a lifetime and make great stories and traditions to pass on ... the tailgate picnics, and vacationing out of the Supercab. Never mind the amusement parks, the fancy hotels, or the hearty meals we'd eat once we'd get there - it was the simple things that were big for us, and always will be.

Back at home, the warm summer nights would welcome us with treats ... lightning bugs to catch, Fudgsicle pops to eat, and baseball games to watch with good ol' Dad ...

- Chrissy Gerity, a Metuchen resident, is a staff writer for Greater Media Newspapers.

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