Last weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day, the kickoff for the rest of the summer. Before we know it, we’ll be watching fireworks burst in the night sky on the 4th of July and then summer will come to a close with Labor Day barbecues and pool parties. Each of these holidays represents something so much more important than hamburgers on a grill and games of Marco Polo. I respect the meaning of each of them and the significance of what they are meant to honor.
As each of them passes, though, I can’t help but reflect on my personal experience with these summer holidays. I can’t help but laugh and shake my head at the enormous difference between the way I celebrate each of them today and the way I used to spend them before I met Anthony and settled down into our happy, little life.
Ten years ago, Memorial Day weekend was when my girlfriends and I moved into our shore house in Belmar. The weekend was filled with backyard parties, Happy Hour, and nights spent in the dark, crowded space of D’Jais.
Today, Memorial Day weekend is family time. We had a barbecue every day of the weekend filled with swing sets, bouncy castles and baby pools.
Oh, how times have changed. Let’s take a look.
Memorial Day Weekend: Then & Now
Breaking Out the Summer Wardrobe:
Then: I could not possibly be down the shore and want a pink shirt or denim skirt I had left at home. Good God, no! So what did I do? I took my entire summer wardrobe from the storage crates, every pair of jeans from my closet, and all my tees and tanks from my drawers and packed them into my giant royal blue duffel bag with bright orange straps. Remember, I can’t do heavy lifting. So who had to carry this 40 lb. bag to and from the car or up the stairs to our loft? My sister, my friends, my best friend’s boyfriend. How very selfless of me.
Now: With the crazy back and forth weather we had this spring, I had yet to remove any of Rosie’s winter clothes from her room when this weekend arrived. Monday, when I finally switched them out for her summer wardrobe, I found her Christmas nightgown and Thanksgiving T-shirt squashed in the bottom of her drawers. It took four hours but the satisfaction I feel looking into her organized closet, TOPS–BOTTOMS–DRESSES–ROMPERS, and at the piles of color-coded leggings in her drawer makes it all worth it.
Thrills & Spills
Then: A regular occurrence. With the amount of bodies in D’Jais and the amount of alcohol in those bodies, drinks were knocked over on a regular basis. Some of those summers, my head was fuzzy with alcohol and during those that I didn’t drink, the fun in the air was enough to make me carefree. So I was never bothered when a cold beer spilled onto my back or a Malibu baby breeze splashed onto my feet. Not to mention, the floor in there was flooded with a dark liquid made of things far worse than liquor. Our feet were always black when we left; a little spill was the least of our worries.
Now: A regular occurrence. On Saturday, Rosemarie spilled her milk on our drive to Long Island for my nephew’s birthday party. It’s awesome when milk spills. On upholstery. In the summer. At my friend’s barbecue on Saturday, she took a full cup of water from the water table and poured it over her head and down her dress. And on Monday as she sat on my lap in my mother’s backyard eating dessert, sticky, cold rainbow ice regularly poured from her cup, her mouth, and her chin onto my bare thighs. Like I said, a regular occurrence.
Then: Okay, there were kisses. It was the shore! It was the summer! I was young and tan and blonde. It was dark and crowded and steamy. So, yeah, there were kisses. Sometimes, they were fun. Sometimes, when I opened my eyes after, I’d smile at my partner, his nice eyes or chiseled cheeks. Sometimes, they were sloppy and I’d open my eyes horrified by the sight in front of me. What can I say? It happens to the best of us.
Now: Is there anything better than a kiss from my daughter? When she plants her mouth right on mine, grabs the back of my head and hums a long MUUAAHH onto my lips? Nope, nothing better.
Then: Yes, I counted down. I waited for that weekend the way Ralphie waits for Christmas morning. One year, a friend and I counted down together each day on IM. Every morning, he’d send the update: “T-minus 15 days.” I’d respond with a Woohoo or an Oh yeah. The day before Memorial Weekend began, I beat him to the punch. “T-minus 1 Day,” I typed and pressed Send with sheer glee. The countdown was over. The summer had arrived and all the fun that came with it.
Now: Countdowns are a lot more negative nowadays. Instead of ending in drinking and dancing, they end in timeout. “Rosemarie, put those socks on your feet in 5–4–3.” “You better be in that bathroom in 5–4–3–2–1 1/2.” Yes, I resort to half counts and with the amount of time I let pass between each number, I am surely misleading her about the length of five seconds.
Cruising Down the Highway with the Radio on, Baby
Then: It felt like half of my time during those summers was spent driving down the shore and back up and down again. Alone for the ride, I’d slide CD after CD into the radio of my blue BMW yelling out my summer anthem by Bon Jovi:
“Till I’m six feet under
I won’t need a bed
Gonna live while I’m alive
I’ll sleep when I’m dead”
When I’d had enough of 80s rock, I’d bounce my knee to the club beat of “All This Time” and “I Like It,” pumping my shoulders and singing the lyrics. Throw in a fist pump and an Italian flag and I was the female version of Pauly D. So classy.
Now: When Rosie became cranky on our drive down the L.I.E. on Saturday, my only salvation was the Disney station on Pandora. I turned up the volume and she and I spent the rest of the ride belting out the lyrics to “Let It Go” and “Part of Your World.” I even made her listen to a favorite from Mulan even though she’s never seen the movie:
“Let’s get down to business
To defeat the Huns.
Did they send me daughters
When I asked for sons?”
I even slapped my hand on the steering wheel on the cymbal sounds between each line. Rosie wasn’t nearly as entertained as I was.
Then: Occasionally, there were nights when we just never made it to bed. After leaving D’Jais, we’d find our way to a friend’s shore house and hang out in the yard or kitchen playing cards. We’d listen to music and talk about nothing until the sunlight rose around us. No worries. A little catnap in the afternoon refreshed us for that night’s party.
Now: Okay, I am lucky. Rosie never actually stays up all night but as she does now and then, on Sunday night she woke up repeatedly, crying in her bed for no reason and calling “Mommy” over and over. Each time, I pulled myself out of bed, sulked over to her room and soothed her back to sleep. A lot less fun than shore all-nighters and, ten years later, a lot more draining.
The Time of My Life
Then: This time spent down the shore with my girlfriends was another world. We’d dance the hours away every night standing in a circle, yelling the lyrics to our favorite songs. We’d pull our hair back into ponytails and ignore the aches in our feet until the lights came on at 2 am and “Summer Wind” played over our heads. Then, we would sit at the food counter outside, split cheese fries and burgers and stroll home in the dark summer air climbing into our shared beds or futons and doze off. The next morning, we’d wake up to laughter as we reviewed the antics of the night before. During the day, we’d lounge in canvas beach chairs in our yard or on the beach with ice coffees making wet circles in the sand.
We seven girls had to share one shower, two mirrors and one A.C but we also shared makeup and clothes and laughs so long, they burned. We became family on those hot, summer days and nights. We had the time of our lives.
Now: But this is the time of my life too. I wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl, but I never knew how much I would love it. I didn’t know how happy it would make me to see my daughter’s face in the morning, her hair mushed around her head, her dolls in her little arms and her face smiling. I didn’t know how the very sound of her footsteps throughout the house could melt my heart. I didn’t know the way she sings “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” scrunches up her nose and tells me “Lambs don’t go to school” would make me laugh from the pit of my belly. I didn’t know everything would make sense when she tells me she loves me, when she holds my hand, hugs my leg and tells me I’m her best friend.
No, it’s not the same kind of fun; it’s not a fun that is loud and bright and crazy. But it is the kind of fun that makes me happy. The kind of fun that makes each day one to remember.
Bon Jovi. “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” Keep the Faith. Mercury, 1993.
Osmond, Donnie. “Make a Man Out of You.” Mulan: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack. Walt Disney, 1998.