Saturday, June 30, 2007

Summertime and the living is easy

Although I enjoy every season, I may love summer more than all the other seasons combined. Summer, surpassed only by Christmas Eve, is a time of infinite possibilities and endless imagination. And, of course, summer is much longer than one night. There’s nothing like a hot, languid day to take me back to childhood, when my mother would push me out the door every morning and I wouldn’t be expected back home until she hollered, many hours later, “Suuuuuuuusaaaaann! Suppeeeerrrrrrrr!” There would be echoes of the same up and down the block as kids went scrambling home.

Having a small child around really brings it all back to me. On Solstice, Sally discovered fireflies. She’s also learning about ants, backyard kiddie pools and ice pops-most of which winds up dripping down her chest until she looks like she’s covered in tribal paint, a la Lord of the Flies. One day, before it was really hot, we went to the beach. She would have run right into the ocean until she realized that those things, called waves, make you wet. After that she was content to chase after seagulls. Summer fun is great, also, because there’s so much to do that doesn’t require much money. Have a picnic in the park, blow bubbles, watch some fireworks. Call me a Benny*, but nothing says “summer” to me like The Shore. Yes, I know it can be expensive, especially if you’re going to a Benny Heaven, like Seaside or Point Pleasant. Do you have any idea how much those boardwalk games cost nowadays? Even skeeball, which I thought would be a dime forever, is now 25 cents.

However, national and state seashores, like Sandy Hook and Island Beach, are only $10 a carload. When I was growing up, an outing to the beach was akin to King Darius and is household moving to the Summer Palace. We’d pack up the station wagon (of course it was a station wagon) with any and all things we might possibly need for two adults and several children. Enormous thermos full of iced tea, beach blanket, beach umbrellas, beach chairs, cooler full of fruit, snacks and sandwiches-emphasis on the sand, and an endless supply of toys and diversions. So grab a cooler and some friends and go. The same can be said for parks. NJ is home to several National Parks, Sites and Recreation Areas and home to dozens of State Parks. Four National Historic Trails run through the state, including the Appalachian Trail. For info, go to or .

Want to stay local AND beat the heat-try your local library. Most offer a variety of summer programs. The New Brunswick Public Library is right across from the Co-op, so stop in after shopping and see what they’ve got going on. New Brunswick has lots to do in the summer, including the NJ International Film Festival now through July 19th . Across the river, Highland Park will be hosting Random Acts of Fun on July 5, 19 and August 2, a block party on Raritan Avenue with activities for kids, music and a chance to win prizes. I will caution you, if you use a search engine to find activities in Highland Park, make sure you type in NJ. More than once I’ve been reading a web page for a while before I realized I was reading about Highland Park, Illinois or Highland Park, Nova Scotia.

Don’t want to leave home? Then head to the nearest Rite Aid, or whatever you have close by, get the cheapest kiddie pool you can find and cool yourself while reading a good book and sipping something frosty. Get a sprinkler for the kids and join them in running through it. Don’t have kids? Borrow some or just pretend some are stopping by later. Buy a watermelon and have a spitting contest. Sit on your porch and enjoy a thunderstorm. Whatever you do, get out of climate control once in a while and enjoy the most valuable lesson summer has to offer: a chance to slow down and relax.

*Benny stands for Bergen, Essex, Newark and New York and refers to those who visit the shore for the summer but don’t live there. In some parts of the world they’re called Shoobies, ‘cause they don’t go barefoot.