“I’m bored,” said no adult, ever. And said every teenager who ever lived, repeatedly, on hot summer days that seem to languish without end. My, how I long for the days of being bored, a distant memory that I can’t seem to recreate in my own hectic life filled with travel and screens and deadlines. But for a writer, being bored is an impossibility.
Recently, I was explaining what life was like as a teenager—back in the day—to one of my nieces (the kind of conversation that is perfect for a beach day, sitting beneath the Carolina sun, where I can at least give the appearance of pausing.) She couldn’t fathom life without social media or constant connectivity.
As I explained life’s activities in the lazy summers of the 1970s and 80s, I remembered how my mother would respond to my exclamation of being bored. She could come up with the most amazing ideas, both fun and fulfilling. “Go for a bike ride, go read a book, go play the piano. The possibilities are endless.” She could make the dullest thing sound incredibly interesting. She once suggested: “I know, why don’t you go cut up an apple?” What?! She’d said it with so much enthusiasm that I am certain I followed her advice with renewed energy. Our mother was the Tom Sawyer of our world, convincing us of the joy of whitewashing that fence, that any activity, when done with gusto, was worth its pursuit.
I suspect my brother, in this photo, had told my mother one too many times that he was bored, and she likely responded, lovingly — “I have an idea. How about you stack all of those innertubes as high as you can and see if it swallows you whole.” It appears he, too, followed her instructions. And she, true to form, snapped a photo.
My brother reminded me of a game he used to play with friends who were also bored in the summer called Fuzzy Bunny—trying to say “fuzzy bunny” with a mouthful of marshmallows apparently leads to hours of entertainment. Then there are those large boxes that appliances are shipped in that make excellent forts or makeshift sleds for grassy hills. The options are endless! As long as we were back in the house by the time the streetlights came on, our mom was fine with whatever the summertime play of the day was. However, my brother remembers Mom’s rule as “don’t come back home until the streetlights are on.” Perhaps our mother was seeking some hours of boredom for herself.
As a writer, I have learned that life is full of stimuli, fortunately and unfortunately. It is impossible to turn it off. I explore the world around me for insights and clues about life. I listen to conversations, which has allowed me to elevate the art of eavesdropping to an entirely new level, seeking out nuances in the cadence of speech and slang and how quickly misunderstandings arise. I watch how children play with abandon and how adults often squash their creativity with rules and admonitions. I admire the beauty of nature and try to find the words to express the awe it creates in my soul.
On these triple H, August days, I get nostalgic for boredom, a time to hit the pause button on the brain and just relax. Oh, to lay on the hammock and pretend to think of nothing. But then I remember how fun it would be to carve up an apple. Thanks Mom!
Besides, I refuse to get to the end of this time on earth and say, “Gosh, was I bored.”
What summertime activities (silly or otherwise) have you found most entertaining for kids (or yourself)?