Childhood Summer Fun
From kindergarten through high school, I was one of those kids who enjoyed almost everything about school—but I enjoyed vacations too. In fact, my favorite thing to do on the last day of school was count out exactly how many days I'd have of summer vacation. I felt a rush of excitement knowing that the rest of June, all of July and August, and the first few days of September awaited me.
When I was very young, my father was away at work all day and my mother stayed at home with Jane and me. We lived in a new neighborhood with lots of young families and children, and the kids on our street would play outside all day. In the evening, my mother would call Jane and me inside by ringing a triangle. I loved these summer days! Even though there was very little structure to each day, it was never boring. The longer, lighter days of summer meant we could play outside after dinner, making every day even more fun. We read, created art projects, went swimming, had slumber parties, and climbed in the tree fort in my backyard. One summer, I started a lending library. Using my own books, I made pockets with check-out cards, and I organized the books into different categories to make "browsing" easier. I even charged late fines!
Though most of my summer was spent at home, my parents usually planned one trip each year. My father's family lived in Louisville, Kentucky, so visiting there meant fun times with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. My mother's parents vacationed in Southwest Harbor, Maine, every summer, and I fell in love with the rocky Maine coastline, the fir trees, and the mountains.
Summers also meant visiting the New Jersey shore, either with my best friend Beth's family or with my parents and sister. Our vacations in the beach towns of Surf City and Avalon consisted of days of bike riding, getting donuts at the bakery, playing games on the boardwalks, building sand castles, and swimming.
Two of my most memorable vacations were our family trips out west. On the first trip, when I was thirteen, we flew to Denver and then took a sleeper train to San Francisco. My sister Jane and I had read Harriet the Spy, about a girl who spies on people and writes about them in a notebook, so Jane and I amused ourselves by pretending that we were spies and writing about the passengers who were traveling with us. On a second trip two years later, our family flew out west and then drove through South Dakota and the Badlands. I loved riding in the car. We played car games, kept a list of the license plates we saw, sang songs, and yes, argued about who had more room in the backseat, me or Jane. Our last stop was Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my mother grew up. While we were there, we saw the historical row houses that she'd lived in as a child.
My childhood summer experiences found their way into many of the books I wrote when I became an author. I set the first book in the Family Tree series, Better To Wish, in a small town in Maine. In Boy-Crazy Stacey, Baby-sitters Club member Stacey McGill vacations in Sea City, New Jersey, which is a combination of Surf City and Avalon. In the Main Street series, Flora and Ruby Northrup move to Camden Falls to live with their grandmother in a row house similar to the one my mother had lived in in Milwaukee. As for our tree fort, just before summer vacation in 1966, I fell out of the fort and had to have my spleen removed. In the Little Sister book, Karen's Accident, the same thing happens to Karen.
Now that I'm grown, I realize that not a lot has changed about how I love to spend my summer vacations. I like nothing better than waking up and knowing I have the entire day to do whatever I want—read a book on my front porch, perhaps take a walk, and then spend time on my needlework and sewing projects. And you know what? I still count out how many days I have until my vacation ends!