Lazy past days of summer
My 14-year-old grandson in Texas is preparing for his first two-week session at the Concordia Language Village—in German, no less. German!? Why not Norwegian? I asked. The classic shrug was followed with the explanation that he had been in Germany several times and liked it. He has been in Norway too but Norwegian is most likely not offered in his high school and German is, so it gives him a leg up.
I got to thinking about how his summer days are spent and how different mine were 70+ years ago. Leaving the state of Minnesota was not even considered, much less going overseas. At the time I entertained no feelings of pity that I did not get to travel—even leaving the town I grew up in was not considered.
From eight to 17 years of age, summers were spent lazily and with little expectation. A weekly trip to the traditional Carnegie Library to stock up on books was the big event. I remember liking adventure books by Howard Pease about tramp freighters on the ocean—this was high adventure for a girl! Apparently, I spent a little too much time indoors reading, as my Grandmother would frequently issue the command, “Get your nose out of that book and go outside and get some fresh air.”
One such endeavor involved renting my brother’s bike for a ride around the house at $.10/circle. Although one year younger than me, he had a paper route, and as a lifelong saver he saved up for and got that new Schwinn bike. And he monitored it carefully. Babysitting was not an option for me because we did not know people with babies. I lived with grandparents whose friends were all past that stage in life.
There were the rare ventures out into the surrounding woods to help build a fort (as much as the boys would allow a girl to do), help Grandma pick chokecherries so she could can jelly, and occasionally accompany my grandparents when they visited friends. Memories of sitting quietly on a chair in the “front room” of a friend’s house were enhanced with the other memory of being treated to some very good homemade pastries.
One day I must have gotten my fill of reading and complained that I was bored and had nothing to do. Grandma quickly handed me a cloth and instructed me to dust the furniture. I did not repeat that complaint—reading was way more enjoyable than dusting!
My brother had several guy friends to hang out with (there were more boys than girls in the neighborhood), but they did gross things like catch snakes and toss them at unsuspecting girls (me). That quickly ruined an afternoon.
When I compare my grandson’s travel-filled summer life, with music camp, film camp, and a house filled with TV, video, and computer, I marvel that I got through a summer. Having time off from school, time to read and daydream, was enough for me at the time. How times have changed!
Sandra Nelson grew up in Glenwood, Minn., with Norwegian grandparents. After a career at 3M in St. Paul, Minn., she retired to Tucson, Ariz. She is currently President of Norwegians Worldwide—Tucson Chapter and Vice President of Hallinglag of America. Both are international cultural organizations.
This article originally appeared in the July 17, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.