Savoring Summer on The Beach Coast
By Wade Rouse
As I grow older, I’ve come to appreciate that some of the most memorable moments from my childhood were not only the simplest but also quintessential summer: Bobbing down ice-cold streams in inner tubes with my mom; fishing a quiet, deep hole with my grampa; marching in 4th of July parades, my giant trombone blaring “You’re A Grand Old Flag”; Jack Buck calling a Cardinals game over the radio; roasting marshmallows over roaring bonfires; watching fireworks boom in a night sky; making homemade ice cream, drooling while staring at that slowly rotating churn, praying for time to fly.
Well, my prayers were granted. And, sadly, summertime changes when you become an adult. You work during most of those precious weeks of glimmering sunshine. You shuttle children to the activities in which you once participated. You slide summer in when you can, like a much needed nap.
I used to take two weeks of vacation every summer and cram in as much fun as I could. I would hit city waterparks and pools and pack picnics to mammoth urban 4th of July fireworks spectaculars. I would take beach vacations.
But there always seemed to be something missing: That Norman Rockwell nostalgia from my youth I believed could never be rediscovered.
When I moved to The Beach Coast, I knew that I would rediscover a slower pace away from the constant buzz of city life, but I was surprised to rediscover that slice of Americana pie, that simple beauty and nostalgic wonder that makes summer sizzle.
I rediscovered small-town parades, complete with marching bands and hard candy thrown from homemade floats; art festivals; lazy beach days floating in the water that lead to lazy nights roasting hot dogs and marshmallows; reading in a hammock strung between two pine trees; farmer’s markets and fruit stands; musicians playing from a white gazebo in a park by the water.
Through this rediscovery, I rediscovered me.
Yes, I still work most summer days. In fact, now that I work for myself, I seem to work harder, longer days than I ever did before, without giving myself a break. And I travel too much away from the place that I love.
But I find myself on most summer days not sitting in an office tower, or board meeting – praying for time to fly – but writing in my office overlooking a forest of ferns and pines, or hauling my laptop to the screen porch, the roar of the lake in the distance. I savor my summer, even while working. My lunch hour can be a run along the lakeshore, a jaunt to the local farmer’s market, or I can take an extended break to hit the beach. Though busy, I no longer have to cram in summer hungrily, like a melting twist cone.
In addition to rediscovering the nostalgia of summer, I have also rediscovered what I now consider to be the most precious summer gift of all: Perspective. I have the ability to understand that – although I’ve grown older, much older, much too quickly – that the most memorable moments of life – the ones that equal any book deal, TV appearance or large lecture – are the simplest. Yes, the grand moments provide a gilded frame to life, but it is the small details that make the portrait so beautiful.
Which is why, as I sit on my screen porch listening to the sounds of summer – the moaning frogs, the whippoorwills, the crickets, the baseball game, and, of course, my old ice cream maker – I no longer pray for time to go faster, I no longer rush the magic of summer.
I sigh, I smile and I simply wait for the ice cream maker to slow.
Wade Rouse is the acclaimed author of four memoirs, including the bestselling “At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream” and his latest, “It's All Relative.” A new anthology about famous humorists’ dogs, “I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship,” was published September 2011, and proceeds will benefit the Humane Society. Wade has been hailed by NBC's Today Show, USA Today, The Washington Post, Detroit Free-Press and Entertainment Weekly as one of America's wisest, wittiest and most wicked writers, and the worthy successor to David Sedaris. For more, please visit www.waderouse.com or www.wadeswriters.com.