Summertime, and the living is...well, it might not be all that "easy" given the recent heat wave, but I've been too preoccupied thinking about the good ol' days to pay the weather too much attention.
For the past few weeks, I've been swimming in a sea of nostalgia. Birthdays tend to do that to you, and as I turned 30 this past week I got swept up in some childhood memories. Of course, it didn't hurt that my actions at work, at home and everywhere in between seemed to trigger some sense memories as well.
Part of that I brought on myself, as every summer my mind seems to wander back to the classes I took through the local YMCA as a kid growing up in Salina. Two in particular — archery and rowing — are experiences I can recall perfectly. With regards to the former, the class stands out because of one instance of inattentiveness on my part almost endangering our instructor (though my aim was true, for the most part, outside of that).
Both activities, though, were experiences I've been wanting the chance to get back into in adulthood. Archery has taken a backseat and while I've been on a few float trips with friends down in Oklahoma, I haven't truly gotten to put into practice the principles I picked up in that rowing class from childhood.
I set out to finally change that this summer, thinking the Fourth of July would be the perfect opportunity to rent some kayaks and take to Sand Creek. Getting my brother-in-law to tag along, the timing couldn't have been more right. The conditions (both of the weather and the creek itself) were perfect, CaNewton was extremely helpful in setting us up with the proper equipment and everything I had learned as a kid came back to me immediately once we hit the water.
Reliving my youth didn't stop there, though, as we spent the rest of the holiday at a party hosted by my sister and one of her friends. We were set to simply "Ooo" and "Ah" at the fireworks displays of their neighbors (as has become our custom), but nostalgia got to me once again.
My birthday falls on July 5, so as I kid I always treated the Fourth of July as a sort of prelude to that, wanting to put on quite the show. I remember my sister and I getting a stipend from our parents to pick out our favorites — from "Killer Bees" to Roman candles to artillery shells and more — each year.
Once I started working in high school, I added my own income to that and took charge of purchasing the grand finale for our show each year, keeping up with that through college. While I thought that fiscal responsibility had finally caught up to me and put those purchasing practices in my rearview, I couldn't help but break down and contribute as everyone at the party started to pool resources for a fireworks fund. And yes, I volunteered to drive to the nearest fireworks stand and help pick out the selections for that evening.
Truth is, it's pretty easy to give into these memories. Just seeing the joy of participants at Kauffman Museum's "Farm to Table" session of Uncle Carl's Camp earlier this summer made me harken back to those YMCA classes I was a part of in my childhood. Meanwhile, helping cover some Newton Rebels games this summer set off an instant craving for a vanilla shake from Braums — a frequent treat after little league games as a kid (and I'm happy to say they still taste just as good) — and driving by Kwik Shop on the way home from work instantly reminds me of summer bike rides to go pick up an ICEE.
Yes, admittedly, there are some (literally) painful memories that come to mind when thinking about the summers of my youth, but the fact is each passing year makes me appreciate all of those experiences even more — the fact that they also tend to be a good distraction no matter how unbearable the weather gets is just a bonus.
-Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.