I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, a Los Angeles suburb once known for orange groves and wide open fields where they used to film Westerns.
My Encino neighborhood teemed with children. As soon as school ended in June, we were allowed to play outside until the stars came alive, dotting the dark sky like sparklers. Summer meant freedom. No school, no homework, no alarm clocks. It was the season of sleep-away camp and long days at the beach and suntan lotion—the good kind, the kind we used before anyone had heard of UV rays or SPF. Oh, how I loved summer.
Then I grew up, and the summers of my youth became a distant memory. Right out of college, I got a job at an advertising agency in Santa Monica, only a few miles from my beloved Pacific Ocean. All was well through fall and winter and into spring, but as soon as the weather warmed, it hit me. I didn't get summers off anymore! Nothing would change except the weather—hot dry days and a layer of smog resting on the horizon.
Those lazy, hazy summer days were over. Adulting was not fun. Full-time work was not fun. Paying bills was not fun. Summer meant sweaty feet in high-heeled shoes and business suits not bathing suits. This was the eighties/nineties—long before anyone heard of working from home. A rude awakening for sure!
About twelve years later, my son was finishing up the second grade. It had been a strenuous year of school: difficult homework assignments, strict bedtimes, and no mid-week TV. A few weeks before the end of the semester, as I was rushing my little boy to finish breakfast and get into the car, he said, “I can’t wait for summer.”
Hmm, familiar words. I might have said them myself once upon a time. A tiny skip of the heart, a tingling rush of adrenaline. The anticipation of those carefree days of summer returned.
And just like that, a new era began. My children’s love of summer became mine. Once again, I delighted in the salty smell of the ocean, the sweet scent of orange blossoms, and the unmistakable fragrance of Coppertone, the quintessential suntan lotion of my childhood.