Three things made me nostalgic recently.
One was a piece by blogger Melissa Fenton posted on 4BoysMother and subsequently shared by several Facebook friends titled Top 10 Ways to Give Your Kid a 1970s Summer. The list included: Make them play outside. Like all day. And Spend three nights in a row at your best friends house. And Play the old Simon game until you want to throw it against a wall.
The second was a message from Apple Inc. consultant Ken Segall during a recent symposium about the power of simplicity:
Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, he said, quoting Antoine de Saint-Exupery, but when there is nothing left to remove.
And the third was watching my children dive headfirst into summer vacation.
Its true that summer isnt what it used to be. As the first day of school sneaks closer and closer toward July, stores start stocking back-to-school supplies before I even get a chance to sift through my kids backpacks to see what might be salvageable.
Fentons essay on 1970s summers made me recall my own, when my brothers and I would stay outside until dark, tossing baseballs or playing kickball in the street and pausing whenever someone yelled, Car!
Like Fenton, I watched plenty of television Gilligans Island, The Brady Bunch, Happy Days and Welcome Back, Kotter. I spent days and nights at my best friends house, or she at mine, listening to records, braiding hair and playing that game where you write with your finger on the other persons back and she tries to guess the letters.
We rode our bikes until the tires wore out. Mine was a spiffy little model with a green and yellow banana seat and the phrase Sweet Pea in script letters on the side. I used to pretend it was a horse and we were racing in the Kentucky Derby.
We held car washes, sold lemonade, went to the pool and jumped off the high dive. We read a lot, but only what we wanted to read. We memorized the Xanadu soundtrack.
One afternoon or maybe it was a whole week, the days morphed into one another we choreographed an elaborate roller-skating routine to Barry Manilows Copacabana. She was Lola, I was Tony, and we traded off being Rico, who wore a diamond and was escorted to his chair when he saw Lola dancing there.
Im not naive or ridiculous enough to believe those summers were perfect, for us or our parents. We got bored and complained like every other kid.
But by Segalls and Apple founder Steve Jobs measure of perfection that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication its apparent that modern-day summers could benefit from a look back. And not just with the 1977 Instagram filter.
I am done with all the forced smile-inducing, uber planned and supervised, over-the-top summer life experiences I am supposed to provide for my kids, Fenton writes.
And what summer pool party would be complete, Fenton adds, without nitrate, skin, meat, additive and taste-free hot dogs on gluten-free buns covered in artisanal ketchup?
Some quests to give children the ultimate summer overlook the simple joy of relaxation, of decompression, of doing absolutely nothing or whatever fun kids can create for themselves. And a lot of it.
A perfect glass of lemonade doesnt require much effort or complicated ingredients: water, lemons, sugar, thats it. Neither does the perfect summer.