Though the thermostat says otherwise, and probably will for a while, according to the school calendar, summer is quickly coming to an end. No other time of year so defines our memories of idyllic childhood—long days, bare feet, fireflies, and family vacations. It’s an annual pause in the relentless forward march toward inevitable adulthood and the never-ending responsibilities to come. For my family, summer means three things: water park, fireworks, and musicals.
In Texas, summer comes early and stays late. By the time school let’s out the first week of June, the daily highs are usually in the 90s and the best way to cool of is in the water, of course. We head to Schlitterbahn – the hottest, coolest time in Texas. If you’ve never heard of this place, half-way between Austin and San Antonio, it’s the best water park in America. Tube rides, slides and giant pools cluster under hundred years old oak and cypress trees along the spring-fed Comal River. I’ve been making an almost annual pilgrimmage to Schilitterbahn to start my summer since Ronald Reagan was president, and that’s how my family still kicks off summer today.
Fourth of July is the holiday of summer. We leave city living behind us and head for the hills. Literally. The Texas Hill Country is just that—hills carved by rivers and streams, dotted with quaint country towns. We load up our travel trailer (no, we’re not 80, we just travel like we are) and meet our friends for a weekend of non-stop barbecue, homemade ice cream, swimming, tossing horseshoes (this is Texas) and naps in the hammock. For three days, there’s no TV or email and if you hike about an hour to the top of the nearest hill you might get a bar of signal on your cell phone. It’s unplugged paradise for the adults and a parental-supervision-lite utopia for the kiddos. All of which culminates in an evening of writing your name in the air with sparklers and a firework display the dads coordinate, and the moms bet who’s going to lose a finger first
By August, the heat has slowed everything down to just above a crawl, and not even sunset offers much relieve. But it does give you the best free show in Austin: the Zilker Summer Musical. It’s the last big event before school starts and has been going on for 53 years. We take a blanket, a cooler, and plant ourselves on the park’s hillside under the stars to watch the show. This year’s production was Footloose (didn’t I just have a hankering for this movie?) and even though it was at least 100 degrees until ten o’clock, the dancing was awesome, the music infectious, and the crowd appreciative. For me there’s no better way to cap off the season--though some rain would be nice.
How ‘bout y’all? Any annual summer traditions you just have to do?