Taking the Scenic Route

There are so many things I remember about the summer of 2013: country music and classic rock, bonfires, chicken races, deep talks on the trampoline, games of man-hunt, truth or dare, and corn-hole, swinging on swings, telling stories, sweet tea, and endless bags of chips. But what I remember most is…that summer, the summer after my sophomore year of high school, was the best summer of my life. And maybe it’s because the weather is getting nicer and the days are getting longer, or maybe it’s just because I’m perpetually nostalgic, but I’ve been thinking about that summer a lot lately. Reminiscing, that summer seemed to define the best part of my high school experience, even though it didn’t last nearly as long as I would’ve liked.

That was the summer I got my license, which wasn’t until the middle of June. And even then, I didn’t have a car that I could just take on daily jaunts (especially after I hit that mailbox my first day out). So my friends and I had to come up with some other way to get ourselves from point A to point B with minimal effort and no parental supervision.

Point A more often than not was my house where Calindy, an old friend who lived in another neighborhood across the street, and I would wait for our older, more mature friend (I’m allowed to say that, he’s had a beard for years), Tyler, to come pick us up in his dilapidated but indestructible Land Rover. I would always be on the edge of my seat, waiting to hear the engine pull up to my driveway with country music blasting out the open windows.

Point B was almost always Brandon’s house except for those times it was Memorial Lake. We were a crew of four with some additional members who would pop in and out during that summer. We hung out every week, almost every day if we could manage it, and we always had a good time. Whether it was smashing the mailbox I hit with a sledgehammer, eating popsicles under the trampoline, dipping our toes into the cool water of Memorial Lake, or just sitting around an evening bonfire discussing ideas like French philosophes as we snacked on chips and sweet tea.

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There would be a serenity surrounding me whenever I was with them. I never feared that plans would go awry or that there wouldn’t be anything to do because we always found a place to go or something to talk about. It was the first time that I had ever felt like I belonged somewhere.

“What appeared to be fine golden chains wove around the pictures, linking them together, but after examining them for a minute or so, Harry realized that the chains were actually one word, repeated a thousand times in golden ink: friends. . . friends . . . friends…” – J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The afternoons at the lake, the evenings at Brandon’s surrounded by our other friends, and the coils of the trampoline that we always sat on were what I looked forward to every week, and were the chains that held us together for that summer.

In hindsight, I can look back now and appreciate the memories with a fondness and a knowledge that I didn’t have during that summer. I learned so much from all of my old friends. From Tyler, I learned that just because we were growing up and adding responsibilities doesn’t mean we can’t make time for our friends. From Calindy I learned that friends come in and out of our lives for reasons, and that we may be powerless to stop them. From Brandon I learned that even though you might not get the recognition you deserve, you should be kind and an amazing friend anyway.

And, from all of them, from every afternoon at the lake, from every bonfire, from every drive home, I learned to appreciate the moments and the memories. Now, when the weather gets warmer, I wish that I was back with them, driving along the backroads of Harrisburg, listening to country music, and having been glad to have “taken the scenic route” as Tyler always said. Bittersweet though they may be, words cannot express my gratitude for that summer where I didn’t think of anything depressing or sad, only wishing for the next day when I could spend time with my friends.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” – Walt Whitman

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