By Thomas Sellers Jr.
We’re on the eve of the best solstice of the four.
The summer solstice is scheduled for the Northern Hemisphere from June 21 to Sept. 23 this year. But if you are like most U.S. Americans, the summer begins either Memorial Day or when the last day of school is completed.
Most of us are in Week 3 of summer 2019. Adults think of summer as a hot time of year involving precious vacation time. The longer days do allow us working folks to squeeze in some quality time outdoors. We can sneak in a quick picnic or jog before the sun goes down.
When grownup life hits, you see summer in a different light. It is no longer the sweet heavenly period of rest, relaxation and recreation.
As time goes forward, you reminisce about what made summer so awesome. The innocence of being a child during June, July and August is filled with hope, joy and a blind sense that summer will always be like this.
After years of desperately desiring to be an adult, reality hits you at your desk how much you really miss being a child during the summer months.
This week the Best Sellers’ List is going back in time to 1986-96. From ages 5 to 15, summer was the greatest time of the year for me. So crank up the Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff and kick back to read the 10 things I wish was still a part of my summertime.
10. Summer chores
You don’t miss something until it is gone. I used to lament my mom’s instructions before she departed for work. “You and your sister better have this house clean when I get home.”
Mom normally arrived back to the house about 3 or 4 p.m. My sister Sha and I had to calculate our sleep, eating of snacks and fights carefully to leave enough time to clean up.
Sha had her list of duties and my responsibilities had to be taken care of as well.
With it being summer, we hung around the house all day and pretty much ran wild. So there was more to clean because we were so messy.
Once a week I got a break from the interior maintenance to assist my dad with the lawn care. I had to rake up grass and chop up the flower bed. Then when the hedges were trimmed, I had to get up all the branches and leaves. It felt good making our home look good. Gave me something to take pride in.
9. Back to school shopping
No. 9 is a symbol that the summer is almost over. We used to start back to school in late August in the 1900s. So early August was time to plan the back-to-school shopping. My mom had a three-phase program starting with obtaining the list of supplies. After she bought our new learning equipment, the following week was the best part of the process — clothes shopping.
We were excited until mom made that turn to the Bargain Center U.S.A. “Oh no, not Bargain Center! We want name-branded clothes.”
Despite her hurt and shame, my sister and I would get on board quick with excitement after seeing two or three new outfits. Before we knew it, we had about seven or eight new sets of clothes to “come fresh” at school.
About a week out from school’s starting date, it was finally time to get some new kicks. Shoes are vital to a growing boy in school. I had dreams of going to Shoe Carnival, Foot Locker or I dare believe the mall. But my mom did not disappoint at all. She was taking us straight to Payless Shoe Source.
I would wear the best knockoff Jordans, Nike, Reebok or British Knights.
It didn’t matter because like most children, the Sunday night before the first day I laid out my entire Day One set on the bed with shoes and baseball cap, too.
8. Family trips
We never really went out of town. So our family trips were very local. We might cross into Mississippi or Arkansas every blue moon. But most of the Sellers family outings were to Bartlett for bowling. We would head to Grandma Helen’s house in Whitehaven. Or we would visit Madea’s and Granddad Jim’s house out in Fayette County. There were stops in Mason to see my dad’s folks and grab some Gus’s Fried Chicken.
Now I realize how close each one of those destinations were, but as a child it seemed like we needed to pack luggage leaving Frayser.
7. Watching TV
When we got back home it was time to grab the remote control to flip through the countless cable channels we had. There was no cell phone for a child back then. Video games were in their infant stage. And the only download we had was when a basketful of clothes was folded and ready to be placed into drawers. Our home was about five years away from getting a computer. Therefore our source of entertainment beside playing outside was the TV.
The idiot box taught us so much with shows like “Reading Rainbow” and “3-2-1 Contact.”
After quality time with PBS, I flipped over to ABC to watch “All My Children.” It was a guilty pleasure my mom passed down to me. Then my sister and I would watch our favorite cartoons and sitcoms.
Summertime was perfect to discover and rediscover great television. It was that time of year I feel in love with “Equalizer,” “The Golden Girls,” “The Facts of Life,” “The Brady Bunch” and “Soap.”
6. Going to the park
Unlike most children today, we enjoyed going outside to play. In a previous Best Sellers’ List I broke down the dangers of going to the park during my childhood. But those bumps, bruises, burns and falls shaped my character.
Going to the park came in two variations for me. My dad would take me up to the park during the day to get some exercise and play some basketball. He taught me how to play and schooled me on the cement court of Ed Rice Community Center.
I finally took the basketball torch from my dad when I was 14 years old. While my dad had to adjust to his days of beating me in basketball being over, I was years removed from being on the playground.
When I was younger, my mom would take us to the park in the evening as a way to give us some playtime and for her to meet her friends.
While the moms talked for hours, we had ample time to create adventures and have so much fun with our lives in unknowing danger.
5. Playing in the water
Who needs a pool? A Slip ‘n Slide is not necessary and having a sprinkler is a luxury. All you need is a water hose and a bucket.
When you are a kid in the summer, water is your best friend. Guys grab your shorts and girls put on those swimsuits — it is time for you parents to simply spray you with water. Toss in a couple of water guns or a Super Soaker, you’re going to have a good-time equivalent of going to Adventure River.
I’m telling you, a well-placed thumb over the consistent flow of water coming out of the hose is a cheap way to enjoy a hot summer day.
4. Backyard baseball
OK, I am about to embarrass myself. I miss playing baseball in my parent’s backyard. If you visited my folk’s home between 1988 and 1993, I was the only child back there.
But I played all nine positions in the field, pitched and was the batter. Not just any batter. I was Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., Kirby Puckett, Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin and my favorite player of all-time, Barry Bonds.
I had their batting stance down to the swing. I would play the game of the week with the desirable outcome of my choosing.
I used my dad’s old ax handle as my bat. A baseball was too hard and could possibly damage my next door neighbor Mr. White’s property. So I used beach, tennis, Nerf and other softer balls to hit over the fence.
I had opening day in April and played my version of the All-Star Game in July. And I finally put down my ax handle for the season in October.
But those solo games taught me stats, helped me admire my childhood heroes and kept me out of trouble.
3. Staying up late
My mom and dad were pretty cool parents. We didn’t have a bedtime until two weeks before school. So Sha and I would watch this dude wearing Bill Cosby-type sweaters selling all types of products like BluBlockers, Thighmaster, Bedazzler and Snackmaster.
I can’t lie, we wanted that Snackmaster to make awesome sunny-side up eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches.
In addition to watching 30-minute-long commercials, those late nights allowed my sister and me to have bonding time. Every once in a while, she would allow me to control the TV.
But most of the time we were in agreement on what to watch. I normally would fall asleep before Sha. When I woke up, she would still be parked in front of the tube.
“Did you even go to sleep, fool?”
“No, too much good stuff on TV.”
2. Friday night
Friday night was one of the busiest days of the week for my dad at work. Meanwhile, Friday was the time for my mom to take a deep breath after a hectic week. Her way of relaxing during the summer was grabbing us to go out on the town.
We would hit up the Northgate Shopping Center for dinner and a movie. We might squeeze in a little shopping.
Mom also enjoyed taking us to McDonald’s Playland. The Raleigh Springs Mall was an option also. But most of our dinners were at the “Country Club of Frayser,” Shoney’s.
Shoney’s had this adult-size offering called the “All-American Burger.” Every week my mom would order me the sandwich with a full plate of fries.
Like clockwork, the waiter would be in disbelief and challenge the 5-year-old Thomas to eat it all. “If you eat the entire burger, your meal is on me.”
I feel sorry for all those waiters who had to pay for my dinners. My mom on the other hand laughed to the bank.
1. Sleeping all day
As a grown man who has taken naps all over Millington and has been caught snoring under his desk, I miss sleeping all day during the summer. It was the body’s way of catching up on all those Zs lost during the school year.
No alarm clock, you just fell asleep wherever you set, laid or stood. You woke up in time for more fun. And if you played hard enough, it was another excuse to get some more sleep.
Long car ride, no problem, just go to sleep. You’re not driving anyway.
Sleep is so precious and it takes adulthood to make you realize it. So kids out there, don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Enjoy your summers and the innocent parts of this time of year.
Believe me, time will continue to age you. Get a firm grip on those great things summer brings to the youth. And us adults, let’s try to steal a moment here and there for old times’ sake.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.