Other Voices: Ode to summers past


This is my favorite place. It’s not exotic – it’s just the barn and field adjacent to my parents’ house, which I’m lucky enough to come home to because my parents still live in the house I grew up in.

My son and I like to walk through the field where I used to spend hours riding during long summer days. Those were, of course, days that included no cellphones, no constant media input of disturbing news, no Find Friends app for my mom to track my location.

I could be gone for hours, all day, riding and going between neighbors’ houses or hanging out at the barn. Days passed slowly and even left me with a good degree of boredom, but it was a pleasant, lazy boredom that reflected having nowhere I had to be, a slowing down of time, being present in the moment of that time. A day like that might have ended with a game of kick the can in the cul-de-sac with our neighbors or skateboarding in the driveway until it got dark.

Much of my summer passed with those structureless days. I might have had a piano lesson, maybe a morning theater camp for a few days at most, a family road trip coming up or already taken, leaving the rest of the summer with few plans. I remember it all as a slower, less hectic time. Fourth, fifth and sixth grade were long, full years. My childhood seemed long. My kids’ childhoods are going quickly, and even they will remark how fast a year is going by, how the school year’s already half over, how they’re already about to have another birthday.

But my kids wouldn’t tolerate slow, endless summer days. For them, that kind of quiet, unstructured day evokes restlessness and irritation, a different intolerable boredom than the one I knew. They’ve been conditioned to be on the go, every hour scheduled, every day an outing, a camp, a practice or game to get to.

On free weekends we come home to the house I grew up in. In the summer the grasses have dried and the scent of sage in the field is so strong. It brings me back to my childhood every time I walk here. Looking southwest, there are layers of green hills and beyond those the ocean. By the time I was 16, I was driving there, my friends piled in the car to spend the day at the beach for one of those long summer days.

When I walk through this field, my heart is so full. Those endless days stretch out in front of me – the field, barn and hills behind them virtually unchanged.

I’m fortunate to be able to come back with my kids and share tales of my simpler childhood. My summers may sound uneventful, but I think they get that there was an ease and a freedom I was lucky to have.

Those were good summers.


Deb Kaplan attended Bullis Elementary School, Egan Junior High School and Los Altos High School (Class of 1985).

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