Oh, to be 14 again. That last summer before high school starts, what you think of as your last summer as a "kid", what a great time.
For me, that summer was a memorable one. I got my braces off and was feeling confident. I was smack dab in the middle of my Motley Crue phase. That summer I wore my "Kickstart My Heart" concert T with cut off black Guess jean shorts almost everyday. I had a silver caduceus charm that I wore around my neck, not because I wanted to be a Doctor, but because it was just like the symbol on the "Dr. Feelgood" album cover. I had long hair and impressively high bangs. My best friend and I hung out at the park almost daily. There were a handful of boys in our grade that were always there playing basketball. We would sometimes shoot some baskets with them, but mostly we just sat on top of picnic tables trying to look hot and gossiping. I got drunk for the first time that summer. It was me, a boy who was going to be a Junior, a playground and a bottle of Dr. Migillucuddy's. I woke up when my best friend was literally dragging me home. That was July 3rd. The next morning, the older boy and I met up at the Independence Day parade then went down to the carnival. I threw up on him on the Ferris wheel. Yep, best summer EVER.
So, here I am, many years later with a daughter who is 14 and about to start high school. Uh oh.
My husband and I are determined to keep her so busy that she will not have time to get into any trouble or meet Dr. Migillicuddy. Her last day of school was a week ago yesterday. Eight days out of school and she has already been in seven states and the District of Columbia. Nope, not hitchhiking, but on a guided tour with her 28 closest friends. They got to see so many memorials and museums and landmarks. They were on the go from 5:30 am to 10:00 pm each day. The tour guides had the same idea as we did, that a busy, tired kid just can't really cause too much trouble. On the last day of the trip, they went to Busch Gardens in Alexandria, VA and had a chance to see the Atlantic Ocean.
Today, after showing her pictures and telling us all about her adventures, she was ready to go hang out with her friends again. She spent the afternoon shopping and then hanging out at the park with the same kids she just spent the last week with. Go figure.
Tomorrow is Father's Day so we will force her to hang out with us. Then on Monday, she's off to Illinois to go to Six Flags with her BFF. The rest of the week she gets to chill at home, watch tv, play with the guinea pigs and relax. Next week, she'll be volunteering at the zoo or the nursing home everyday. Then on Friday, we leave for Minnesota to spend the 4th of July at the cabin with the whole family. On Tuesday we hop on a plane for Alaska, where we will spend a week sightseeing and relaxing on an island in the Pacific Northwest. We have a short stop in Washington, so if you are keeping track, that is 11 states and 2 oceans in less that a month for Ashley. We fly back into Minneapolis, where we will stay a few more days with family, then back home to Madison.
Ashley gets two weeks to volunteer and hang with friends, then she is off to Sheboygan for a week long piano camp. She'll be staying at the Lakeland College campus. It is a beautiful, small campus that is surrounded on all sides by cornfields. Next, a week with her grandparents, followed by a week long orientation program at her new school. The following two weeks she has tennis practice everyday, then school starts up again. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a busy summer.
When C and I were talking about all of her plans and adventures and time away from home, I made the comment that this will be one of the best summers of her life. C thought about it and then said, "I hope not. I hope that this is just the beginning for her, maybe it will be one of the best summers of her childhood, but when she is in high school and college, she'll be traveling those summers too. This summer, these trips are just the beginning." He is so right. These two big trips for her are just the beginning. I hope that this summer will be amazing enough to ignite a fire in her, to make her want to travel the country and the world. I hope that she has a great, memorable summer, but I also really hope that the best summer for her is yet to come. I know that the next three summers she will be going on church mission trips, as well as spending weeks at a time up at our church camp as a counselor. Those will be great summers too, and then, off to college. I want her to backpack through Europe, to go on a safari, to visit the poorest countries in the world and help build schools and teach. The best thing is, I know that she will. I know that has in her what it takes to be that person that I always wished I could be. She will not be sitting on her duff in her mid thirties, remembering that summer that she was 14 as the best summer of her life.