Wow. I have once again really fallen off of the wagon when it comes to blog posts.
What is it about summer that makes us so nostalgic? Something about the months of June, July, and August stand out in my mind more so than any other block of time during the year. I can remember what was going on in my life in each summer past, unlike I can for any other stretch of months. I've been taking walks and thinking about that a lot lately, kind of letting my life story relive itself inside of my head using the summers.
Childhood summers seemed like pure magic. I remember how it felt the last week of school, and especially the last day of school. Knowing that the days ahead would be filled with sleeping in, playing in the woods, and swimming. So much swimming. Growing up in upstate New York, we had a pool in our back yard. Pools are a thing in New York; the majority of people on our street had them. We would swim all day, every day. Eat lunch outside on the deck. Scream and laugh and play games like Jump/Dive, Green River (or Green Lakes? I can't remember which we called it), of course Marco Polo... We would play in the woods behind our house, ride bikes, spend the majority of days outside. I am so happy to have been a child in the 80's and early 90's, before the internet and cell phones and DVR. Back then kids were kids and we invented our own fun.
I remember the last summer we spent in New York before having to move to Ohio. I remember feeling lost when I would think about how I was going to survive without my best friend Courtney. I remember when the movers came, and slowly our house became more and more empty. Thinking about another family moving in to that house felt so wrong. It was ours. It was our pool and our porch and our basement. I remember morning we left, with our station wagon packed full, ready to make the 12 hour drive to Dayton, Ohio. Our neighbors were standing on our driveway, all waving good bye. I remember seeing them out the back window, and for some weird reason, I remember looking at the phone that was in our kitchen, which was one of the things packed into the back. I focused on the phone, trying not to cry, remembering all the times I used it to call Courtney and ask her to come down to our house and play. I couldn't look at the neighbors.
The rest of that summer was very different. We had to live in an apartment while we waited for our house to finish being built. I had my own bedroom and my brothers shared one; my parents slept on the pull out couch. We moved to Ohio with three other families from Syracuse (our dads all worked for GM and the plant there shut down, which is why we had to leave) and all of the kids were around the same age, but I still spent a lot of time alone. The apartment complex we lived in was huge, and we were allowed to ride our bikes wherever we wanted by ourselves. I think that is the first time I realized I was a bit of an introvert and enjoyed alone time. I would ride around for hours, sometimes stopping to sit under a willow tree at one of the ponds. A few times I got caught in the rain, and that was always exciting to me. My love of the outside and the natural world really started to take shape. I'd marvel over the way the willow branches moved in the wind, or how the water rippled. I started to realize that no one else seemed to notice these things, let alone talk about them. It was like my own little secret, that magic was real, and I was the only one who could see it.
Summers in Ohio were very different from those in New York. I missed our pool. I missed Courtney. We would go back to New York every summer, first to Schenectady to see our large extended family that we left behind, then to Syracuse to see our friends. I remember the first summer we went back. It felt so weird to be visitors on our old street, and to see strange cars in our driveway. I remember looking at our own car in our neighbor's driveway, with our Ohio license plates. It still felt wrong. As we grew older, the trips to Syracuse stopped. It's been probably 17 or 18 years since I have seen that house, but I still dream about it all the time.
High school summers were magic in a different kind of way, especially after my friends and I got our drivers licenses. Our favorite things to do are now pretty hilarious to me: we liked to "cruise." AKA drive around and honk at cute guys. We would play hide and seek at Meijer, eat at Steak N Shake or Max and Erma's about 50 times per week, go dancing at under 18 clubs (do those even exist anymore??), have sleepovers, go bowling. Not like teenagers nowadays seem... we never drank or went to parties or anything. Summers were also filled with color guard practice and band camp. Oh yes, I've been to band camp. And oh yes, it is just as crazy and ridiculous as the movies make it seem. Plastic wrapping freshman to beds, sneaking out of our rooms, getting ridiculous sock tans. Sometimes when the air smells a certain way nowadays, it reminds me of band camp. I'll never forget that long walk down the hill to the field, or how it felt even longer walking up it, completely exhausted, at the end of the night. The hot drummers when they would take their shirts off. The importance of duct tape. The insane amount of inside jokes. The barrage of arm bruises after rifle tosses gone wrong. Toilet papering the field. The sunsets. Those were the days.
I remember my last summer before leaving for college at Ohio State. While I normally made money by babysitting, that summer I got my first job, working as the receptionist at a cancer research facility. I worked 8-5, Monday-Friday. It was the first time I learned about the beauty of The Weekend. Cell phones existed at that point, but they looked like this:
I remember the week I got ready to leave for college. It was in mid-September. On Tuesday of that week, I was supposed to hang out with my best guy friend for the last time. We were planning on watching American Beauty, and before telling him good bye I was going to tell him that I had been completely in love with him for the past two years. He was my first love, and I had told no one.
I remember getting out of bed that morning; it was around 10:30. I was home alone: my parents at work and my brothers at school. My bedroom was at the end of the hallway, above the garage. All of my "going to college" stuff lined the hallway. I remember walking past it like it was yesterday, thinking about how something felt off. At the moment I chalked it up to nerves about expressing my feelings to my friend. I remember walking down the stairs, going into the family room, going up to the TV, turning it on. The news was on, and they were reporting on a plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania. I thought "how awful," and sat cross-legged on the floor directly in front of the TV to watch. There was a smaller picture in the upper right corner of the TV, showing live footage of New York City. As I started to wake up a little more, I saw the smoke. And realized that the World Trade Center was gone. The rest of that day is very much a blur. I don't think I moved from the TV. I of course did not see my friend. We have family that lives in Manhattan, and I remember learning that they were all okay. It was also my friend Amber's 18th birthday. That night there was a sonic boom from a plane taking off at the Air Force base nearby. It shook the ground and the windows and the kids in the street screamed. We all thought it was a bomb, and people from every single house around stood on their porches looking at the sky. I never saw my friend that day, never got the chance to say good bye, or confess my undying love. That day evoked a lot of questions about what is really important in life.
My last summer living at home was the next one, after my freshman year of college. My friends and I worked at the local country club as cocktail servers at the pool. That was the summer we had an epic party at a friend's house when her parents were out of town. We learned about bad decisions, how mace stains walls, and to never drink strawberry daiquiris in bulk. I still do not drink strawberry daiquiris to this day.
College summers were everything I had imagined college summers to be. I learned that summer classes were a drag, but learned about the magic that is Photoshop during one, so that was a plus. We partied. We went out every night. We were poor poor poor, as we didn't have our student loans during that time of the year. We learned the hard way that you in fact cannot add any liquor into a Hairy Buffalo mixture and have it taste like Kool-Aid. I distinctly remember pouring Jack Daniels, gin, and vodka into a Rubbermaid tub, adding fruit, Kool-Aid mix, and Hawaiian punch, then barely being able to sleep as we let the mixture settle overnight. It tasted horrid. We drank it anyway. That day was the 4th of July. I still remember what I was wearing. Strange how certain memories stick out in your mind.
I remember summers after college. I worked in a restaurant as a bartender and at a preschool at a summer camp for school-age kids. People would laugh when I said I was a bartender and worked at a preschool, saying how different the two jobs were. In reality, drunk adults have many similar qualities as young children. I loved those summers and I loved the kids I had. We took field trips every week: bowling, the movies, to the local pool... it paid terribly, but never really seemed like a job. I started my first art journal one of those summers, the summer that the restaurant that I worked in, the restaurant that was my life, ended up closing down. It was at that restaurant that one of my coworkers started calling me "Jenndalyn." I had no clue that years later, it would become my business name.
The summer of 2010 changed everything. My college friends were moving to Colorado right before it started. One of those friends had a good job in the office of a medical device distributorship. A job that she offered to me, which I interviewed for and ultimately took. I took this job because the restaurant I had been working at and had started managing was on the brink of closing, and I knew I had to make a change. Everyone kept asking me when I was going to get a "real job" and stop working in restaurants. I felt like I was letting my parents down by not using my college degrees. It seemed like the next logical step was to get that 9-5, with the benefits and office and commute and everything.
I remember saying good-bye to my friends. I remember thinking things were never going to be the same, and the people that I had spent the past few years of summers with were going away forever. That weekend, I locked myself into "new work" to do this huge project that my new boss asked me to do. I worked 12 hour days, wanting so badly to impress him. I kept thinking about how my friends were gone, and I cried so hard that I got tear drops all over the papers that I was working on. It was like I knew that life had just changed in a huge way. It felt weird to not be working in a restaurant. It felt weird to be waking up at 7:30am every day. It felt weird to have weekends off, because that's not how your schedule works in a restaurant. I had this heavy feeling, that I had entered adult life. The fun was over. This was it.
I started hating that job pretty quick, and started panicking, thinking about what I was going to do. I hated that I had started to measure my life by how many days I had until the weekend. A year later, the next summer, I had figured it out, and began my "secret project" that is now Jenndalyn Art. It was my way out, the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Then the following summer I quit the office job. Why is it that every significant thing in my life seems to somehow be tied to the summer?
So now here it is, the summer of 2015. It's already the end of June, and so far it's been a total washout. It has seemed more like spring, and while the grass is crazy green and my flowers are already crazy huge, I need some sunshine up in here. It always seems like summer is fleeting, that it slips away from us somehow. We blink our eyes and the leaves are starting to change.
This summer, I am going to try hard to enjoy every moment. Tuesday Adventures will be returning! Remember those?! When I worked in the office job, my coworker and I always joked that Tuesdays were the worst days. Because Mondays were just bad by default, but Tuesday was even worse in a way. So two summers ago, I started taking little mini trips with my camera. I couldn't do that last summer because I had a babysitting job, but this summer is fair game. I want to visit a waterfall somewhere. And swim in a creek. And sketch in the woods. I'm going to get back into blogging. I'm going to stay up too late working in my art journal. I'm going to soak up every moment of sunshine, splash in the puddles, swim in the pool, take long walks, and just live.
So that got pretty wordy. How about we end with some pretty pictures? Here's a little glimpse of what I have been up to lately:
Tending to my little apartment garden every morning is the best way to start my day. All of the rain has everything looking very lush and I love it.
Lucy and Pippa still keep me company into the wee hours of the night :)
My work has been especially bright and flowery lately, just the way I like it.
I created this piece over the weekend to celebrate the monumental Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality. I am also having a giveaway contest this week over on my Facebook page to win the original! You can check it out HERE.
And now this week starts July. If anyone has any ideas of beautiful outdoor locations in Ohio to visit, I would love to hear them! I am looking forward to a summer filled with art and peace, and I hope it passes by delightfully slowly.