“A Summer to Daydream,” June 21, 2022

On my way home from the post office, I drove past a school. The parking lot sat empty, the place looked abandoned, like a dry well waiting for rain.

Summer vacation. The thought made me smile. As I waited at a red light, something zipped by my window: A boy, 10 or 12, sailed along the sidewalk on a skateboard _ kick, glide, kick, glide _ with his eyes, mind and fingers locked on a cell phone, texting. When he stopped at the curb just inches shy of traffic, I whispered, “Thank you!”

He glanced up to see the light had changed, then skated across the intersection texting all the way. I watched until he was out of sight. When the car behind me honked, I moved on. But I kept thinking about that boy. Things have changed since I was his age. Yes, I do mean in more ways than just the discovery of fire.

Summers in my childhood were spent doing … mostly nothing. We lived miles from town surrounded by cow pastures and apple orchards, with a railroad track 50 yards from our back door.

I remember sitting for hours in an apple tree, daydreaming, watching clouds, tossing apples down to the cows and listening for the rumble of a train. When I heard it in the distance and felt the tree start to tremble, I’d scramble down and hold my breath, waiting.

The cows never knew what to make of it. They’d just stand there looking puzzled. Cows like to do that. If they could scratch their heads, they would.

As the engine roared by, I’d jump up and down, scattering the cows and waving my arms at the engineer. He in turn, bless his good, kind heart, would blow the train whistle, just for me.

Talk about fun. Clouds and cows and trees and trains and apples and kindness and, best of all, time to daydream. What more could a child _ or anyone _ want from summer vacation?

My children grew up on the coast of California’s Monterey Peninsula surrounded by beaches and parks and urban forests, just a few blocks from the Little League ballfield.

“Go play,” I would say, and they did.

I made sure they (and I) had time to daydream. What else is childhood (and motherhood) for? That’s what I want for my grandchildren, and for yours: A daydreaming kind of summer.

The skateboarder on his cell phone made me wonder: What will his summer be like? Will he take time to daydream? 

I surely hope so. We are all, I believe, contemplative creatures by nature, thoughtful and imaginative and curious. We long to examine our lives, to understand how we feel, to imagine possibilities and make great decisions for our futures.

Cows aren’t the only ones who find it hard to understand what’s going on. To do that, we need time to do “nothing;” to connect with ourselves and each other with our eyes and words and touch and hearts and souls.

My grandparents often sat on their porch on summer evenings saying little, enjoying the quiet, waving at passing cars. I loved sitting there with them.

My husband and I have a similar ritual, sitting on the patio, listening to birdsong and marveling at the sunset.

Machines and gadgets are grand inventions. Who would want to give them up? But somehow we need to learn to control how we use them, rather than allowing them to control us and our children and our lives.

It sounds simple, but it’s strangely hard to do. We need to summon the courage to shut them off once in a while _ our cell phones, TVs, computers and other diversions _ and allow ourselves the joy of being fully human, fully aware of life in ourselves and in others and in the world all around us.

Sometimes we need to do nothing. Especially in summer.

Here’s wishing you and yours a summer to daydream.

(Note: I’m taking off this week to daydream. The above column is from 2015.)


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    I do hope you really are just taking time to daydream. Hope and pray all is well with the family. It’s probably 10:30 PM, something like that —and I just could not sleep. Started looking at photos of the family on this wonderful gadget that the daughter-in-law gave me… All the kids can send their pictures to this frame and they just float by. Some gadgets are just amazing! Gave me a chance to be grateful for all those I have been blessed with, including being able to read beautiful thoughts coming from your heart. Blessings on your summer!

  2. CHope Hall says

    This column reminds me so much of my childhood. We lived in the country after having lived in Chicago where I had lots of friends. I learned how to sit for hours on the tree limb watching the clouds. I also had a swing that I absolutely loved. I dug in the dirt, picked weeds that looked like flowers, and dreamed of wonderful things. I amused myself & never wanted to go indoors til dark. In this area it isn’t safe for anyone to even be outside. Everyone stays indoor with the doors & windows locked. The drapes are closed. I feel sorry for kids of today. Sometimes changing times aren’t for the better.

  3. Katie Musgrave says

    Yes, my childhood summers were bare feet, bikes. Playgrounds, swimming pool kinda times. Memorable and full of neighborhood kids. Some family vacations…long driving vacations or short stay camping trips. Good memories and not one cell phone or electronic game. We played street games…jump rope, hide& go seek. Lovely times. But my grandkids go on long travel adventures & some camping times. Too. My Greatgranddaughter has actually already flown to Florida & back & she’s only a little over a year! Times have changed, but family time is still there, but different.

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