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Sweet days of summer

Editor-in-chief, gerontologist

The excitement of summer is once again in the air. ice_creaThe nights are longer, kids are out of school and many places of business are in a more casual mode. It is the time of year to kick back a little and take in all the wonderful sensations that summer has to offer. No matter what part of the country you grew up in, there are similar memories shared by us all. Get back in touch with your “inner child” by reminiscing about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feeling of summer.

Whether you bought it with your allowance or actually made it yourself, ice cream is the official food of summer. Neighborhood kids would hear the sound of the ice cream truck from miles away and pool their change in order to get a treat. For a child, this was the only true way to cool off. If you lived near the ocean, no summer would be complete without a trip to the boardwalk for a cone or cup of your favorite flavor. Ask anyone who lived in Tampa during the 1930s, and they will tell you that the way they beat the summer heat was by ordering a cup of lemon Italian ice. It really did the trick.

If you were lucky enough to grow up around a summer garden, you have memories of the night’s dinner menu revolving around what was ready to be picked. Today you can pay extra for vine-ripe tomatoes at the supermarket and try to relive that garden-fresh taste. I have actually stood there in the grocery store inhaling the dirt-rich aroma from fresh tomatoes wishing I was standing in a summer garden. Strawberries are another hard to resist food. Anyone who has ever tried to keep kids from eating strawberries straight from the garden is fighting a useless battle. This fruit is just too inviting! Fresh watermelon is also a must during this season. If you spent your childhood trying to perfect your distance at spitting watermelon seeds, you have experienced a true summer ritual. Perhaps you can find a private field and a few non-judgemental friends and see if you still have what it takes.

Another great summer food is corn on the cob. Whether you boil it on the stove or grill it over an open barbecue, corn on the cob is a favorite for all ages. Sitting around and husking the ears is even more fun than eating them. These are the moments of great conversations.

mombeachSwimming is another activity that defines summer. In a time before air conditioners, cooling off in a lake, ocean or pool was a necessity. If you lived in a city and had no means of getting to a real body of water, an open fire hydrant did the trick. Family summer vacations revolved around finding a place where everyone could swim. Only the rich had their own pools. If you lived near the beach you probably spent a great deal of time trying to design the perfect sand castle. Years ago, there weren’t any of the fancy buckets and shovels that you see in toy stores now. You had makeshift sand toys and a lot of imagination. The boardwalk was the place to be at night. The happy screams from the amusement riders and the clicking sound from the spinning wheels of chance, mixed well with the sound of crashing waves in the distance. You knew you were where you wanted to be. If you were one of the daring ones, your summer swimming experiences included some “skinny dipping.” This was the ultimate expression of youthful energy and complete freedom. Hopefully you never got caught!

Summertime also brought out the entrepreneurial spirit in the thirstyneighborhood. Lemonade stands could be seen across the country from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Some consisted of just boxes with a board across the top, while the more organized kids had an actual wooden stand (usually with lots of help from Dad). For those who wanted to make some serious money, lawn work was the way to go. Kids would spend their days going around door-to-door offering lawn mowing and weeding for a nominal fee. Try throwing the neighborhood teens a few bucks to mow your lawn today, they aren’t interested. They now have “real” jobs. Babysitting was another great way for teens to get some summer spending money. This neighborhood economy fit together nicely.

Now that we got you deep in the season and probably thinking about that one true summer love, how about making some unforgettable memories this summer? That feeling of having some fun and “letting go” is just under the surface. Let it out and make this summer one for the scrapbook. It is the one time of year you can get away with almost anything.


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Cynthia Lopinto

Cyn LoPinto, M.A. is a gerontologist focusing on significant issues affecting older adults and their families. Her areas of interest include lifestyle enrichment, family dynamics, and caregiver support. Cyn has worked in both the recreational and healthcare industries.

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