Every time someone asks me where I grew up, with a grin, my mind begins to replay memories from my time in Freeport, Illinois. I moved to Texas when I was two, but I spent every summer until sixth grade at my dad’s in the country. I was surrounded by sunshine, corn fields and gravel roads. For a kid, it doesn’t get much better than that. As summer comes to and end I am beginning to reflect on how I spent my summers as a child. Ironically, I’ve mentioned Freeport, Illinois more times in the past month than I believe I’ve mentioned in my entire life. I’ve definitely been reaching back to my roots lately. In today’s world, it seems like children are just chauffeured from one activity to the next not wanting our kids to miss an experience or an opportunity. Will little Johnny not get the most out of life if he misses guitar lessons, Karate, drama kids or football? It’s not surprisingly that children are starting to feel the pressure and stresses of the real world when their parents are pushing them to be involved in every activity and make sure the don’t “miss out” on any opportunities. To me it appears to be a ripple effect or reflection of the parents’ lives. If a parent lacks the ability to prioritize what should be done and doesn’t possess the willpower to say “no” well we can’t expect our children to be different. How about we just let children be children? Although I played basketball and took horseback riding as a child, my fondest memories as a child don’t stem from those “activities.” (For the records, I am extremely thankful for those opportunities and that my parents provided an environment where I got to explore hobbies and interests).
You see my favorite memories are often cheap in cost, but rich in reward. There is nothing wrong with fancy, expensive trips and dinners, but it’s usually the memories made in between that stick. I absolutely love going to the Wisconsin Dells and other road trips with my dad, but usually the best memories were made in the car as we cracked jokes and shared stories. I’ve decided to make a list of some of my favorites memories as a child. I encourage you to do the same. I’m hoping I can remember this so one day when I have children I keep summers significant – yet simple. It’s not about how much you can pack into their lives, but how how you make the most of each opportunity. I guess these memories won’t make sense to you. They most likely won’t matter to you. They shouldn’t. But your memories matter. Your moments matter.
My favorite memories:
Watching heat lightening on the porch of my farmhouse while I enjoyed a fudge pop with my dad and then running off to catch lightning bugs
Enjoying root beer floats at A&W after my dad’s softball games
Family game night with prizes. I still remember the awesome unicorn notebook I won. I probably still have it somewhere. I have a hoarding problem. You never know when I might need that paper that I wrote on the Agony and the Ecstasy freshman year of high school…
Riding my bike up to the airport to get ice cream from the freezer in the tiny airport office
Going fishing with my dad. I’ll be honest it wasn’t my favorite thing to do at the time, but looking back I love the memory.
Running away from home with winter clothes on in the middle of summer, but only getting past the driveway before my dad came and picked me up
Sitting on my dads lap while I steered the car down our gravel road
Picking out my first dog. Nothing really compares to that moment of picking out the dog you want and having the responsibility in naming it. I named her Blackie because we already had a dog named Blackie and I hadn’t grown into my creativity at the time.
Using refrigerator boxes to make the most epic fort ever
Running to rescue the clothes off the clothes line as a storm started to sweep in. You heard right – a CLOTHESLINE
Sitting at my neighbors house, who were like my adopted grandparents, and playing games or playing with their toys
Catching little frogs behind my dad’s office
Racing in the chairs down the halls at my dad’s office
My dad chasing my sister and I across the the yard with a water hose on a hot summer day
Turning all our barns into clubhouses for our “Helping Hands” business.
Riding the paddle boats at Krape Park and getting ice cream at Union Dairy
Occasional saturday mornings when my mom would mix fun chores in with regular chores. I might have to vacuum the living room, but then the next chore I drew could have been stuffing marshmallows in my mouth
Having peanut butter and apple movie nights with my mom
Camping with my family as a kid
Going to the library and getting lost in a book. Okay, this is still one of my favorite things to do today.
In kindergarden (when it was still a half-day system) getting chocolate shakes at Burger Street while I ran errands with my mom.
Where does this post stem from? One, I hear people at the office talk about how they don’t even like the activity they have their child in or they feel like they are just a chauffeur on the weekends. Two, I guess I am on this recent quest to simplify life. Or maybe just to make my life more authentic and genuine. A journey to get back to the basics. I feel like in America we over exert ourselves and make life more complicated than it has to be. We rush from one place to the next one meeting to another and we are so busy making a living we forget to make a life. Sure, my dad worked during the day in the summer, but at night he was present in my life and willing to make memories with his children. Memories I can pass on to my children one day with fondness and gladness in my heart. I wouldn’t exchange my summer days on the farm for any other type of upbringing. Those summers were the best summers of my life. Every day was simple yet significant. My family focused less on making money and more on making memories. Most importantly, we focused on making the most of every opportunity.
What would be on your list? Is it simple or more extravagant memories? How do you make the most of every opportunity?