Day at the beach is summer's last call

    We like the things

 that summer brings.

 It brings the sun.

 It brings the heat.

 It brings the things

 we like to eat.”

   --  From the children’s book “Summer,” by Alice Low

That little verse, an opening to a children’s book, has been ingrained in my conscience since childhood. Published in 1963 under the “Beginner Books” division of Random House, “Summer” featured illustrations by Roy McKíe of a young lad and lass and their trusty dog on summertime adventures. My mom and dad read this to us, along with other children’s favorites by P.D. Eastman (“Are You My Mother?” and “Go, Dog, Go!”) and others that got our outdoor imagination revved, like “Andrew Henry’s Meadow” by Doris Burn.

Having been published 50-plus years ago, the “Summer” kids were not watching cable and surfing the Internet all day. They were outdoors, filling their five senses with summer tastes, smells and feels. They did things like eat watermelon, ride bikes, watch fireworks, cool off in a creek-fed pond, catch fireflies, camp and go to the beach.

Many of you reading this, no doubt, had similar experiences in the days before expected air conditioning, WiFi and 250 television channels.

When we were growing up, my dad’s vacation spot away from his newspaper job was Galveston Island. (We were the family John Cougar sang about in “Little Pink Houses,” who “...vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico — Ooh yeah.”)

Dad rented a cabin on the island’s west end, sometimes primitive, but a little more fancy as the family grew. He wasn’t the type to fill his vacation with theme-park blowing and going where you leave more exhausted than you arrive. His job kept him plenty exhausted, so he renewed with relaxation and maybe a daily jog on the beach, taking in a few bikinis along the way.

Today at family gatherings, we laugh about our summer ritual, from piling the kids in the back of a 73 Ford pickup for the trip, to dad cursing Houston traffic (and once, brother Kevin for mimicking a tire screech sound on Loop 610).

And for a week, we did as little as possible as dad found his respite. Dad soaked in the sun, listened to Willie Nelson 8-tracks and read detective paperbacks by John D. McDonald. My younger brother and I played in the surf, my older siblings took long walks and my mother taught the more patient of us to find shark teeth as the tide lowered. Our skin bronzed. We saw jellyfish, a few sharks, crabs, learned about the tides and the dunes, and we dragged a mattress out onto the deck to lay under the moon-lit sky and listen to the wind and surf.

Last weekend, my family had its final summer fling with a quick trip to Port Aransas, and I thought about my childhood and the “Summer” book. My sister, who now runs the hometown paper, rented a condo that was large enough to accommodate all of us, and she volunteered — yes, volunteered — to take our sons for the week on her vacation. Having been empty nesters for several years, she and my brother-in-law said they didn’t mind.

Christine and I headed to “Port A” on Saturday for a quick splash, enjoyed beverages on the beach and got a light sunburn. But one day at the beach is better than none. That night, we grilled, sat on the porch and had music and good conversation. Just like our Galveston trips with our parents 30 and more years ago.

Now, my two middle school-aged sons are readying for a new year, and my nephew is prepping for his first year in college. Last week was a good “farewell, summer” time for them.

Most everyone “likes the things that summer brings.” Years from now, I hope my sons will make their own outdoor memories with their families.

ken@fredericksburgstandard.com

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