I grew in a time when summers started before Memorial Day and didn’t end until after Labor Day. This week, I watched the neighbor kids head off to school this week and wondered who stole the summer. Kids didn’t get out until mid-June, and already they were heading back.

In my day, unless the weather was bad, we were expected to exit the house and not return until the lunch bell sounded, kicked back into the outdoor zone, and don’t dare showing up before the dinner bell (mom had one of those hand held cow bells you could hear three blocks away). We were good runners. As one of seven, I had to run like hell when that bell rang to claim my place at the table, or I’d be eating PB&J and all the vegetables I could stand (yuck).

Summer days were filled with biking to the municipal pool, fishing off the town dam, climbing trees, wandering tree filled parks, tossing unripe crabapples at the girls, playing any kind of game that required toy guns and bad guys, and small town baseball. Charcoal grills were primed with gasoline (stand real far back, toss a match and watch it shake the air with a wump). Each successive year, I’d see how far I could bike before having to turn around (timed of course to not miss dinner). If we were lucky, dad would rent a cottage on a big Wisconsin lake where the adventures never ended.

Not all days were physical. Some days we’d just lie back, staring at marshmallow fluff clouds drifting in a sea of azure to catch unique shapes, or linger past the night curfew bell (same cow bell) to see if we’d catch a falling star. Some days we’d wander into the old stone library, meander its dusty stacks, find a book, and plop on the floor to read it on the spot. If it was a really hot day, we might see the horizon darken the color of a day old bruise and wonder if we’d see it birth a twister.

Back then, there just wasn’t enough summer. Today, it seems there isn’t any summer. A shame really, because it was the time of year when imagination kicked into high gear and recreational reading was at its height. Guess I’ll have to accept that times have changed and count my blessings I grew up in a time when summer really meant something.