I sat on the edge of my chair, my eyes focused on the clock hanging above the chalkboard. Tick tock. Tick tock. The second hand slowly inched forward. I held my breath. Tick tock. Tick tock. The second hand hit the sweet spot on the clock making the school dismissal bell sound. I scrambled from my seat, rushed down the hallway, and flung open the door, the warm sunshine enveloping me. It was May 31st and the last day of school. Summer had officially begun.
I loved summer and relished the tastes, smells, and sounds of it—the sweet tartness of wild plums growing on the trees in our backyard, the intoxicating fragrance of Mother’s honeysuckle, and the sound of freshly-washed clothes slapping themselves dry on the clothesline. I felt content, almost complacent, with the abundance of days that lay before me like a vast ocean. But urgency replaced my complacency, for summer seemed like a promissory note—signed in June with its long days spent and gone before I knew it—due to be repaid come September.
Yet, each June I convinced myself that summer would somehow last forever. I spent the better part of June with my friends at summer camp where we enjoyed sun-drenched days filled with scavenger hunts, outdoor cooking, campfire secrets, arts and crafts, fishing, and hiking.
Hiking was, by far, my favorite part of camp. I frequently broke from the group making my way to a pond fed by a small brook. The air along the shore was rich with the fragrance of leaves and huckleberries, and the trees rustled in the summer breeze, their canopy blocking summer’s piercing rays and making everything cool. Behind me I heard the running water in the brook. Occasionally a bird fluttered in the trees overhead, and a squirrel dashed up the trunk of a nearby tree. I was surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colors that had the softness of time standing still. I drank in all the sounds and took in all the air my lungs could hold, slowly expelling it, filled with a certain childhood peace and joy.
Summer camp ended, yet the remainder of summer still seemed endless, devoid of expectations and a place where the only measure of time was the rising and setting of the sun. I filled July and August playing baseball with my brother, swimming at the local pool, hopscotching with friends, riding my bike, and reading library books. When no one was around to play with, I hosted tea parties for my dolls underneath the cottonwood tree in the front yard, making up stories to entertain them. September eventually came, and I returned to school, summer’s peace and joy lingering inside me, and willingly cashed in summer’s promissory note marking it paid in full.