GENDUSA COLUMN: Those Summers of Yesterday

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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It is ‘Summertime,’ and the livin’ is supposed to be easy, according to George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, who composed the famous song for Porgy and Bess in 1934.  The comforting melody is now synonymous with this time of year.

I can close my eyes and hear my father whistling the soulful tune when the fish were jumpin’, and the cotton was high.   We caught many of those jumpin’ fish in the ponds around my grandmother’s house and fried them up after the sun sank in the sky.

Life was blissful during those summer days, or so it seemed, because I was happily unaware of anything other than school days had ended.  Vacations, reunions, swimming, and watermelons were the sweet, simple ingredients that joyfully flavored my world.

Those summers were a stark contrast to the present.  They were untouched by the intrusion of phones in our pockets or the constant surveillance of parents flying noisy helicopters.   Computers and cable news were yet to make their way into our lives, leaving our days carefree and simple.  Our main concerns were the bugs that bite or, worse, sting.

The scorching heat of summer, especially today, is a real threat.  And if the sun doesn’t get us, the sharks might when we swim!  It’s a far cry from the easygoing days of enjoying Mighty Mouse on Saturday morning.  Now, we’re bombarded with the antics of politicians, reports on wars, and many rival opinions on how to solve the world’s problems.

Shoot, I think Mighty Mouse could fix everything.  Unlike many current leaders, he was valiant, innovative, and fun.

How do we give our families a more enjoyable summer today?  How do we return to the days when our worry was over whether the fish or bugs were biting?

The first remedy is to tune out, turn off, and stop piloting helicopters.   Don’t spend your summer days listening to opinions on the news.  Folks who watch cable news all day (and I know many) will begin to hate more than sharks, bugs, and the heat.

Instead of children playing video games alone, why not encourage them to play board games with their peers or the family?  Playing games with others promotes fairness and valuable people skills.

Today’s youth live in a highly structured world.  Many children have packed schedules throughout the summer.  When do they have time to play?  The imagination they utilize as children becomes the foundation of future inventions.  Their minds, like ours, require space to dream.

Everyone, including me, must put their electronic information centers in time out.  Cell phones, iPads, and anything else that connects us socially to everyone, including Siri, Alexa, and who knows the name of that Russian spy, should be used less.

Misinformation, bullying, and conspiracy can fire an already hot summer.  The combustion is simmering and ready to explode in the winter, so why waste this season stewing over it?  Why not jump in the pool, go fishing, or pack a picnic attached to nothing except a float, rod, or a fried chicken leg?

Is it possible that we’re moving further from an easy, simple life?  With intimidation, fear, and struggle becoming more prevalent, our lives are getting more complicated.  No one can cause this except when we fall prey to the evil intentions of those who try to bring it upon us.

So, let’s take control of our summers.  Start listening to the news at the beginning of the morning or evening, and then be strict with your family’s device time.  Use those saved, often useless moments to connect with your loved ones, teach your children, and find solace in prayer.

Let’s put aside those who want to ruin a lovely summer by tuning them out, turning the noise down, and relaxing because tomorrow is comin’, so enjoy today.

As a girl, I spent many days on the porch, where fans cooled us.   Air conditioning was in very few homes, but fans were everywhere.   When folks visited, we sat outside, telling stories and playing games.   No television was allowed, and if the phone rang, most ignored it because no one wanted to interrupt life on the porch.

When I was young, Sundays meant going to church.  No stores were open, and no ballgames were scheduled during worship times.  Our faith was more important than convenience or money, so we put everything aside to worship the one who made the fish jump and the cotton grow.

We can’t go back in time, but we can learn to live more easily by comparing our current summers, filled with technology and schedules, to those simpler summer days.  By reflecting on the differences, we can identify areas where we can make changes to embrace ‘Summertime,’ where the livin’ is easy.