Summer days can slip right by

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Again this week I realized the benefits of having Mondays off.

Before you get jealous, just remember that while you're sleeping in on Saturday, I'm at work.

After a rainy, cool weekend, I was so happy to get outside in the 80-degree weather Monday.

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I spend most of the afternoon walking on the trails and tooling around downtown.

I also noticed that summer has officially begun. The pool is open. Children and teenagers are riding their bikes all over town. Skate park was bustling with skaters and skater wannabes.

And all of those kids are probably outside again today, enjoying summer while us grown-ups are at work.

So I don't want to hear any of them say, "I'm bored."

Summer vacation always seemed to go too fast. Sure, I liked school as well as the next kid, but it was the only time I could be outside that often.

By the time school started again, my pale skin had turned a light brown. My dark blond hair was a golden yellow.

I'm so glad I grew up in the country. My parents own a 9-acre property in the woods just east of Owatonna. My dad built us a playground complete with swings, a slide and a roofed platform, accessible by ladder, rope or monkey bars.

As soon as my brothers and I woke up and had breakfast, we would be outside. In the playground, we'd make complex river systems with the hose and the sandbox.

We'd ride our bikes up and down our parents' windy gravel driveway or through the dirt trails in the woods.

We make up storylines in which we were secret agents, trying to catch the bad guys. Sometimes we'd pretend the woods was a city and designate certain areas as the store or work.

When it was hot enough, our mom would let us pull out the plastic wading pool. We'd fill it early in the day to let the water warm up by the time we wanted to get in it in the afternoon.

Some days our mom would take us into town and we'd visit city parks or the library. The library had similar summer programs as the Austin Public Library. If we read something like 25 books, we'd get to pick out a free book at the Little Professor Book Center.

When I didn't feel like playing, I immersed myself in the lives of the Babysitters Club or the characters in Judy Blume's books. Those library programs are a great way for kids to keep learning while out of school.

Some things I hated about summer were swimming lessons and having to watch my brothers play T-ball or baseball. (No offense to them, I was young and my attention span was short). But overall, I couldn't have asked for better summer vacations.

I clipped a "Calvin and Hobbes" comic from the newspaper when I was in junior high. It shows Calvin's dad getting ready for work and Calvin is bragging about how much he's looking forward to his day off from school.

"These summer days sure slip by don't they dad?" Calvin says to his father. "Too bad the daily drudgery of making a living has to keep you from appreciating these sublime moments in life.

"Well, best not to think about it. If you stay healthy, you can enjoy days like this when you retire."

His dad then walks out the door with a grim expression on his face.

Calvin had it partially right. Us grown-ups can enjoy nice weather on the weekends and go where we please.

Calvin could only travel to far-off places in this imagination.

But that imagination is what adults can't get back. The best of part playing outside in the summer was pretending you were someone or someplace you're not. And you had days upon days of it. It was a great little escape.

In the last frame of the Calvin cartoon, he and Hobbes are sitting up against a tree in the sunny weather.

"Ah, summer," Calvin says.

Kids, summer will be over before you know it and so will childhood.

Don't let these days pass you by without taking full advantage of them.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at