Summer should be winding down, right? Right? Not in North Carolina. I should know this by now. This will be my 5th summer in the south over the span of about 9 years. I know that it starts early and ends late. I know that the middle of August means we’re only about 2/3 of the way through it. But, having grown up in the midwest, I still feel like it should be cooling down by now. Or that I could look forward to cooler temperatures in a least a few weeks.
Because I go back to school tomorrow for another semester, I started thinking about some of the summers in my past. I might not be a detail oriented person, but I still have some vivid memories of summers past. As a child, I remember my dad would often come home with a big paper bag full of corn on the cob, and my mom would send us kids out on the back porch to shuck it. We also had an apple tree in our back yard that only grew really sour green apples. There was a branch on that tree that was perfect for sitting on and reading, and since I was a pretty quiet child and didn’t mind keeping to myself, I spent a lot of time in that tree. I was also responsible for picking up the rotten apples that fell on the ground so my brothers could mow the lawn without mowing over them.
I remember going next door to play at Michaela’s house, or up the street to play at Megan’s. I remember when Megan’s dad got transferred to Germany b/c he was in the Air Force, and we got each other those “best friend” necklaces where each wears one half. I was ten years old and it really devastated me for awhile. I was probably 13 before I gained another best friend. 6th and 7th grades were pretty lonely and awkward, as I suppose they are for everyone.
But back to summer. The summer between 8th and 9th grade was really a changing time for me. It started off with what is still one of the best weekends of my life. My best friend Jill invited me out to her dad’s cabin on the Platte River. It’s in this little Czech community where there are houses and cabins around maybe a mile or so loop of gravel road. It was memorial weekend, and friends of her family brought their four wheeler. We loaded up the back with water balloons and super soakers and had an all day water fight with the boys up the road. We were no match for their water balloon launcher, though. As we zoomed by their house, I distinctly recall a balloon hitting me so hard on the side that I didn’t even know what happened, except all of a sudden my side was stinging and wet. We also spent a large portion of the day wading and swimming in the river. Most people unfamiliar with the Platte River will be surprised to know it’s bottom is made of sand, not dirt. Also, unless it’s rained a lot, it never gets deeper than about 4 feet. We filled up the cooler with soda, and we waded across the river with folding chairs and the cooler and set up camp on a sandbar. I’ve probably never been more sunburned than that weekend.
The same summer, my older brother Josh introduced me to The Old Market in downtown Omaha. This was the early 90’s, and there were such cool shops everywhere. Vintage clothes stores, stores full of Dr. Martens, Manic Panic, bongs, and belts made out of seat-belt buckles and bottle caps, stores full of clothes from Asia, skateboarding stores, art shops, record stores, and restaurants. It’s still somewhat this way today, but doesn’t have the grit it had back then. This is the summer I decided that I would avoid being “preppy” at all costs and started dressing much more “alternative” and started listening to The Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, The Cranberries, and whatever else they played on 101.9 “The Edge.” I’d beg my brother and his friends to take me and my friends downtown. Eventually, our parents would drive us to the Old Market and drop us off for a couple of hours. We’d get 50-cent soda from the Joe Vitale fruit stand, and go try to find some skateboarders to watch. We wore our platform shoes and plaid skirts and thrift store t-shirts and mostly stayed out of trouble.
We got older and my friends started getting cars. When we were sixteen, Jill, Jenni, and I went on our first all-by-ourselves-no-adults road trip to the fantastically exciting city of Hastings, Nebraska. Hey, Kool-Aid was invented there, okay? Anyway, we went because we were deep in youth-group culture and simply had to see some very popular Christian bands whose names I am keeping secret. Either way, it was a great weekend, and we even got our own hotel room at the Comfort Inn. Why our parents ever let three 16-year-old girls do this kind of thing, I don’t know, but I’m so glad they did. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know if this weekend occurred in the summer or not, but to me it doesn’t matter. There were many other excursions similar to this one that happened during our high school summers.
And what would summer be without all the trips our youth group took to exotic locations like, Zumbro Falls, Minnesota, The Black Hills in South Dakota (which really was rather beautiful), Excelsior Springs, Missouri, or Lexington, Nebraska. The trip was always called The Weeklong. Not a very original name, but still something we looked forward to the second it was over. We spent all year just thinking about the next weeklong. What was so great about them? While these trips were meant to get all us unruly kids “on fire” for Christ, I have to say that what I remember most is all the humor and crazy antics that happened. Too many things to remember, but nothing will beat the fake soap operas the Schneckloth sisters always put on, or when Jill announced to all 200 of us or so during our morning service that Toby had pooped in a Pringles can. I still don’t think he’ll ever live that down. But most of all, I think we’ll remember the guys we had crushes on. Our first Weeklong in Minnesota, Jill and I would make “Top 10” lists of cutest guys there. I think we were 14. The biggest crush I got was at Weeklong 1996, where I fell hard for a boy named Josh from Sioux Falls. He was just beautiful. I wrote him a couple letters and he wrote back once, and that was it.
My next most vivid summer memory is of after high school. Jill, Jenni, Kelly, and I would often drive in Kelly’s car to Lincoln, Nebraska just for the night. We’d go eat at Lazlo’s and then to The Coffee House. There were pretty much only two albums we’d listen to on the way up and back, and those were Weezer’s blue album, and Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs. We all knew all the words and sang them loudly.
The summer of 2000, I was getting ready to move to Charlotte, and worked 55-hour weeks between two jobs. I had a car with a radiator problem and non-functioning air conditioning. I had to wear nylons to one of those jobs, and it was awful. It was a lonely summer and I could only think of my future move to NC. I wrote all the time. I kept wondering what it would be like in the South. I had never lived anywhere else other than Nebraska, and couldn’t really imagine living anywhere else. Even though that summer was hard and depressing and hot, I also look back extra fondly on that time because it was filled with such wonder and excitement of things to come.
This is getting long, and maybe I will make it it a two-parter? If not…I guess I just wanted to write this because I am still so thankful for the friends of my youth, and what I wouldn’t give to be on a road-trip with Jill, Jenni, and Kelly listening to music and talking about boys.
Maybe I’ll try to find some old pictures, and put some up to give some context. I’ll try not to cringe when I look at the ones of myself.