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June 23, 2021

Vasquez: Cherished moments of summer

Summer has arrived and the birds are jubilantly chirping, the flowers are delightfully fragrant, and the sun-kissed blueberries are ripe enough to eat. Ah, summer. What’s not to like? Gardening, family strolls through San Juan Bautista and the occasional trip to the beach are just a few of my personal favorites. Prior to summer break [for my kiddos] I was carefully mapping out [their] summer enrichment programs. Swimming, YMCA day camp equivalents, and trips to the Boardwalk … You know, the usual. I was reflecting on the total cost of keeping my two boys engaged, busy and entertained throughout the summer. I kept thinking that just the attempt to make sense of the summer shenanigans was in itself absurd. I stopped jotting all the happenings and events in my calendar and did what any like-minded mother would do. I called my best friend for some of that old-time enlightenment.
Our conversation started with a “do it yourself” bookshelf made from wooden crates that my son and I have been working on for a while now. I explained to her that the process has afforded an excellent bonding opportunity for us [my son and I]. The project would invariably result in a useful shelving unit and a story for posterity’s sake.
I asked her, “How will I keep up the momentum and sustain the pace over the entire summer?”
I was not hopeful I could for I listened to parents discuss how they were scouring through the net for places to go, and worlds to conquer and, yet, I observed them scurrying about reminiscent of the rabbit of “Alice
in Wonderland” fame “late-late for a very important date”.
My friend said that the most memorable and enriching moments for children are not defined by money alone but through an investment of time spent. In my mind that made perfect sense, for my pockets are not filled with money but an abundance of time leftover from work obligations I often do possess.
My friend of course is a wonderful person with many gifts, one of which is insight. She asked me to reflect on our combined childhood experiences for we had grown up together and spent many a summer traversing San Juan.
“What are your most memorable summer moments?” she asked.
Before I could answer, she was talking about our trips to the Forklift (an ice cream shop that stood where Margot’s now stands). Mrs. Cheryl Lopez served up the best ice cream in San Juan. Alhough there was a noticeable lack of ice cream competition, it was undoubtedly still the best. I would be remiss if I did not mention her delectable mint chip ice cream cake that made the angels sing in delight. A guiltless must for every party regardless of age and celebration.
We would ride our bikes around town all summer long; me on my Schwinn bicycle with the really cool banana seat, wearing funky-fresh spandex and double-layered colored socks. And my friend, on her turquoise and hot pink Huffy wearing her equally awe-inspiring spandex and matching turquoise and pink LA Gear sneaks. These are the highlights of our youth. Best described by Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill, “In the sun that is young once only, Time let us ride and be in the mercy of his means…” (1945)
My mind erupted with all of those remembered moments that had been locked away in the adult vault for years: Hiking the De Anza Trail with her Dad before it became chic to do so. The path then open only for cattle grazing and the wandering spirits of the De Anza expeditions; and [#1 on my list] picking up salami and cheese at the Windmill Market, a loaf of French bread from the San Juan Bakery and having a picnic on the mission lawn and listening to my friend’s dad comment on Alfred Hitchcock filming Vertigo at the actual mission. Of course, I hadn’t the slightest idea as to who Mr. Hitchcock was, let alone what sort of movie Vertigo was, but I listened anyway enthralled in the moment of it all.  
My most memorable summer moments were not filled with theme parks and television or video games and today it would be apps on the smartphone or iPad; they were filled with bike rides, walks, picnics, laughter, family, friends and lots and lots of San Juan ghost stories. I would want for my children to have the opportunity to make their own memories. That is my wish for them.  
As we enter the summer months I ask that you think about the same question: What are your most memorable moments? What was playing in the “sun that is young once only” like for you? Did you build sandcastles? Or did you demolish them? Were you king, queen, pauper, prince or princess of your story? Did your valiant horse have wings or was it made of steel? And, indeed, we were at the mercy of the sun’s means.

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