Summer Vacation: A Few Memories & A Spontaneous Giveaway

Yesterday, my son finished up his sophomore year of high school.

Excuse me a moment…

Anyway…other than an ever-increasing freakout the older my son gets, what the last day of school means to me is Summer. More specifically, summer vacation. Which comes with a load of feelings and memories from my past decades years. Like…

  • Carrying the heavy backpack home from school, loaded up with all the junk from my desk. No, I didn’t have the neatest desk in the world back then. Actually, it looked a lot like my bedroom. If you don’t believe me, talk to my dad. Wait, don’t, you’ll just give him a nostalgia-based ulcer.
  • Reading, reading, and reading. And more reading. And then some more reading. In bed, in my room, with the drape barely opened. It’s only with age and the colder winters we’ve been having that I’ve become anything like a sunshine and warmth fan. As a teen, I wanted a dim, shady cave of a room, where I curled up on my bed with the book of the day. (That’s why there was always a clean path from my door to the bed, well–okay, from the bookshelf to my bed. Again, talk to my dad.)
  • Camp. Not a lot, but at least a week of Campfire Girls’ day camp at Camp Takeneko (I am absolutely positive I am not spelling that right!), with our straw mats that were miserably itch to sit on and singing songs that–if you started me off today–I could join in on and sing easily to the end. And a couple of summers, the big sleepaway camp, also through Camp Fire, at Camp Natoma, where we slept under the oak trees (and the oak worms). We made key chains out of that plasticy stuff–you folded four pieces over (and under?) each other–oh, what IS that stuff called? OKAY, SPUR OF THE MOMENT SUMMER GIVEAWAY: THE FIRST PERSON WHO LEAVES A COMMENT WITH THE NAME OF THAT PLASTIC STUFF (without looking it up–you’re on the honor system here!) wins a copy of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. JUST BECAUSE.

    We did macrame, too, it being the sixties and early seventies, we swam & showered & had the backs-of-our-ears checked for cleanliness. Good times, good times.
  • August vacations. August. In the summer. Since I grew up near Pismo Beach, and a lot of those vacations were driving ones (luckily, way back then, we could all read without getting carsick), we spent quite a bit of time sweltering through Arizona and New Mexico. Once Hawaii and once Texas. (Tip: Don’t ever go on a double-loop roller-coaster, twice in a row, in 113-degree heat. Just don’t.) We had good times there, and I mean no negativity to all of you who live happily in those regions, but you might be able to guess why I fell in love with Oregon and Washington. And ended up living in NorthernCalifornia.
  • My first summer jobs. I’d give away another copy of my book to the first person who guessed where I got my first job ever, but it’d be just too easy. Yep, the used bookstore in town. (Owned, by the way, by the past secretary of my elementary school, in who’s office I sat with the flu and vomited onto the floor just in time to prove to my mom that I was actually sick and not faking it. But that’s another story.) I worked part-time at her bookstore (mostly telling people that, no, that month’s issue of that particular romance series hadn’t shown up yet) and part-time at a children’s clothing store in Pismo Beach. There I sold sweatshirts to kids who had come over from the central valley, to our foggy coast, in shorts & tank tops; and I learned to make a bow out of wrapping ribbon, by hand, to top off the grandparent-to-grandchild presents I wrapped.
  • Typing up dog and cat records and cleaning exam rooms. After paying my dues in retail, I ended up working summers for my parents at their veterinary clinic. Yes, you’re right–I’ve listed only the glamorous parts of the job. Seriously, other than some of the cleaning and some of the holding down of dogs with sharp teeth that didn’t want to be held down, I loved that job. We were almost always busy, and I met some wonderful people. Their owners were often pretty nice, too.
  • Quiet birthdays. Since I’m an August-born and, at least back then, pretty shy, I remember feeling pretty detached from my school friends by the time birthdays came around. I know I had parties when I was young–I remember Musical Chairs in the kitchen of our first house and some Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and I had a couple of small sleepovers when I was older, but I think I was probably happiest with family cake and, you know, a new book. This might be a memory to check with the rest of the family, though!
  • Afghans. One more repeat–sixties and early seventies. One summer, I think I was twelve, my cousin came to stay for a week (more?) and she, a good friend, and I all crocheted granny-square afghans. And I mean granny-square. One. Big. Square. I believe mine was made up of yellow, orange, hot pink, lime green, and purple. I could check, if I were so inclined, because I still have that afghan. No matter how much you’re inclined, as an adult, to purge Stuff, there are some things you just don’t throw out.
  • Boredom. Yes, I think this may be the true function and purpose of summer vacation. To give the kids just enough off-time so that when the end of summer rolls around, they’re–if not ready–at least resigned to school starting back up again. Ready for something different. I know I was. Plus, you know, there were all the cool school supplies to buy–notebooks that were waiting to be written in, pens that were still filled with ink, Pee Chee folders to doodle on. Teachers that still had all the potential, at least, to be wonderful. And friends to see again. One more fresh start.

What about you? What are a few of your favorite (or not-so favorite) summer memories. Join me in a few moments of time travel and share something from those vacation weeks. And don’t forget, if you know what that plastic stuff is called and you’d like to win a copy of my book, leave a comment to enter!


  1. You mean it wasn’t called plasticy stuff? cause that’s what I called it.
    There. I win. 😉

    Seriously, I have no clue. But I did make them, just not at camp.

    My fave summer memories are going fishing with my family, playing in the above ground pool my parents and family went together to buy. We swam from mid-morning to late evening, only stopping long enough to have lunch and supper. Oooh… and hanging out with my family and having sleepovers with my cousins. Okay, I’ll stop there. Too many more good memories!


    • beckylevine says:

      I’m sure those camps had some educational motive-you’d think they’d have taught us the NAME of the stuff. Pool time, yes–summer movies with us jumping into the motel pool over and over and over. 🙂


  2. I think it’s called gimp, but I’m not 100% sure. When I worked as a counselor for a YMCA camp, that’s what we called it.

    Oh, and hey! I went to Camp Fire Girls camp around the same time as you did, with no prior exposure to the organization (songs, traditions, etc.). It was a culture shock, I’ll tell you what!


    • beckylevine says:

      Melodye, I think you’re right. I looked it up–I don’t think I ever heard it called that. Congrats. If you’d like a copy of my book, send me an email at beckylevine at ymail dot com, with your snail-mail address! You mean you went to campfire camp without having “flown up” from a bluebird group?! Brave girl! 🙂


      • A social worker placed us there. 😦 So yeah, no “fly up.” More like an alien space ship landing, lol.

        Oh, and YAY, I’d *love* to have a copy of your book!!


  3. Gimp!

    (I worked as a day camp art couselor)


    • beckylevine says:

      I tell you, once I got out of camp, I never went back! My sister did–loved it and did the counseling thing. Me, I just went back to curling up with my books. 🙂


  4. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I’m glad other people knew the “plasticy stuff,” because I had no idea what you were talking about!

    “Boredom. Yes, I think this may be the true function and purpose of summer vacation. To give the kids just enough off-time so that when the end of summer rolls around, they’re–if not ready–at least resigned to school starting back up again.”

    I agree. I think people should have this luxury at least sometime in their lives: of having enough leisure time to be bored, and then have to figure out what to do about it. It’s not good to schedule people to the point where they never have a breath.


    • beckylevine says:

      I am rarely bored anymore, but I so remember it from being a kid. I don’t actually miss it…I remember it as excruciatingly miserable. I’m not saying a little bit less chaos wouldn’t be nice at times!


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