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My first summer without summer

Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 11:30 a.m. CST

As I drove down First Avenue last night, the sign outside Family Video caught my eye. I don’t recall what it says verbatim, but it essentially offers free rentals for report card A’s.

This immediately took me back to my days at Holy Cross Grade School, where A’s not only equaled free rentals at Blockbuster, but also personal pan pizzas at Pizza Hut. While I’m sure the latter has gone by the wayside (despite the governement’s designation of pizza as a vegetable), I couldn’t help but get a bit nostalgic about that last-day-of-school feeling.

In grade school, it meant a day filled with outdoor activities — most memorably the water balloon toss — and three months of doing nothing but sleeping in, biking around Sandy Hill Lane and playing Little League games at Chet Waggoner Little League.

In high school, it simply meant a sigh of relief that finals were over and a subsequent shrug that summer conditioning for volleyball started the very next morning at 6 a.m. In college, it meant either the beginning of summer classes or a summer job, but the very fact that I was in Ames with a select group of my friends sans underclassmen made the work more than bearable.

This brings me to the feeling I experienced the other day, one I’m sure most of you felt at one time or another. As my siblings finish school for the semester and head back home, and as my recently-graduated friends at Iowa State roadtrip to music festivals across the country and stay out late on Tuesday nights, I realized that this is my first summer without a real “summer.”

The sunny skies and balmy temperatures of late serve as pretty convincing evidence that summer is upon us (although, not technically for another few weeks), but I’m beginning to realize I need to work a bit harder to enjoy the same free feeling that summers past imparted upon me.

Things that used to seemingly just happen with no set plan — bonfires, barbecues and voyages down the Skunk River on blow-up mattresses and innertubes — now require planning, coordination and, usually, two weeks’ notice for many of my friends.

I can’t lay out with my roommates in our front lawn attempting to get a tan (“attempting” is the key word there) while sipping on lemonade and listening to the radio. I can’t come home with burgers and hamburger buns from Hy-Vee and expect my best guy friends to have the grill ready to go. Most of all, I can’t wake up, look out my window at the sun rising and know that today will be a day free of responsibility, just like those summers when I was in grade school.

Part of it all makes me a little uneasy. Having to abandon the childish notion of “summertime” makes me feel awfully dang grown-up, but, in the same sense, that growth simply represents a new challenge. Perhaps I’ll have to find ways to make my own “summer” this year, but I’m more than ready to give it a go — beginning with a stop at Tropical Sno after work today.