The meaning of summer for me has changed through the years.
During junior-high-school, summers meant endless hours fishing, swimming and floating down the river like a turtle on a drifting log.
I learned to waterski, bait a trotline, cook over an open campfire, skin a catfish and drive a boat.
Then, in high school, my focus changed. Summers found me dreaming of Panama City, Florida and girls in skimpy bathing suits. I can still close my eyes and smell Coppertone suntan lotion. It probably didn’t have any sun block in it, but it contained something that made my teenage hormones rage. I loved that smell.
The dread began in late August because school started right after Labor Day back then.
Once in college, summertime changed again. The days of the free ride were over.
My parents helped me get into college and let me stay at home free of charge for a time. But they didn’t raise me to be a freeloader, so I went to work and began paying my own way.
It took most of my weekly paycheck to put gas in my car. At that time, I drove a 1965 Impala SS with a motor bigger than most of the states on the Eastern seaboard.
My gas consumption was not calculated in miles per gallon as it normally is but gallons per mile.
It was fire engine red with Raider mag wheels. I’d roll down the windows and punch my favorite tape, which was the size of a peanut butter sandwich, into the eight-track player.
Even when it was hotter than the devils bar-b-que pit, I’ve never looked cooler in a car. For me, it was the perfect summer ride.
Uncle Sam drafted me out of college, and the time I spent in Panama was an endless summer.
After the Army, I joined the workforce and summers were compressed into two weeks, which is all the vacation I got in those early years.
It seemed by the time we packed the car and drove to our vacation destination, it was time to turn around and head back to the grindstone.
I learned to enjoy long-weekend vacations to summer festivals, the beach and to state parks.
Once I retired, summers began as soon as the earth warmed enough to plant a garden, or when the sun on my back made it warm enough to go fly fishing on the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River.
These days I can go wet a line any morning during the week, when most of the working folk are hard at it.
Now, summer also means doing those chores I’ve put off all winter. Last winter seemed to go on forever, so my list this year is much longer than usual.
Another thing about summer these days is that the fruit trees, berry bushes and grape vines that we planted years ago are maturing, giving us an abundant harvest.
We’ve put up five gallons of blueberries so far and the bushes are still hanging full.
We still love the beach, but not so much in summer when those crowds of pesky high school sun-worshiping kids fresh out of classes swarm like bees to sweet flowers.
Summer, like most of the things in life, changes with time, and with all things considered, that’s fine with me.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Happens is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org