If I Had My Own Summer

7 mins read

If I had my own summer, I’d spend it driving around in an 18-wheeler across America, listening to my favorite podcasts and being faithful to the request of any child excitedly pumping their arm at me with a smile in the rear window of their family’s car.

If I had my own summer, I’d visit every presidential library and museum, taking in the good and the bad and wondering how so many brilliant people with good intentions managed to arrive at such bad decisions. Or, perhaps, how we’d been led to believe some of them were brilliant and had good intentions.

If I had my own summer, I would dedicate it to studying math, never having been my greatest or most favorite subject in school. I’d finally learn how to measure the area under a line on a graph and properly notate derivatives and finally understand conceptually what the hell “x —> ∞” means and I wouldn’t be afraid to ask stupid questions and it wouldn’t matter to me anymore where this is applicable in my day-to-day life.

If I had my own summer, I’d travel to Antarctica and offer a hello and goodbye to all the massive structures of ice that are terminally melting. I would stand in the middle of a giant and vanishing field of tundra and try to understand the sensation described by a man in a documentary I once watched; he said that the dead silence of Antarctica is somehow louder than anything he’d ever heard. 

If I had my own summer, I would read all the books I was supposed to read but never had the time. I would make a very long list and get to it. I would read the old classics I never picked up and the new classics, too. I would read the barnburners and the hidden gems. I would read your book.

If I had my own summer, I would spend all my time working at an animal rescue. I would be inundated with funky smells and lots of barking and meowing and cawing and I’d clean up shit all day and it would all absolutely be worth it. 

If I had my own summer, I’d drive around Central Texas to all the places I lived as a kid. I’d visit every trailer park that held my small family, every school I briefly attended, every cheap restaurant and bar I could remember. 

I would try to visit all the kids from my childhood who grew up in military families and I would ask them how they’re doing and I would ask them what they’ve lost. 

I’d drive out to the place where the Luby’s used to be in Killeen, and I’d think about how my mother would take my sister and me to eat there as a treat every few months. I would want to order the strawberry shortcake for dessert. I would remember it being the greatest thing I’d ever tasted up to that point in my young life. 

And I would remember sitting beside my grandfather in his car on I-35 and seeing Luby’s and listening to him gently and soberly explain how there’d been a horrific mass shooting there only years before.

If I had my own summer, I would learn how to cut and sew fabrics into clothes. I would make gorgeous dresses in my size with giant ass pockets and I wouldn’t be interested in making money from it. They would just be for me.

If I had my own summer, I’d learn how to draw. I would pick up a simple pencil and pad and watch instructional videos all day. I would mess up constantly and the eraser shavings would pile up and I would become unusually acquainted with the smell of shattered graphite. I would try to draw the people I love and wonder how on earth I had known and loved them so long without really noticing the unique angles and curves of their faces. 

If I had my own summer, I would visit the graves of every 18 and 19 and 20 and 21 year-old with whom I went through basic training when I was around their ages and I would count how many summers they had before there were no more summers. 

I would wonder what they’d be doing with their own summers right now. I’d wonder if they’d be taking their kids somewhere for vacation or what home improvement projects would take up their entire Saturdays or what their families are doing now, so many summers long past.

If I had my own summer, I’d go to Dover for every last final arrival from Iraq and Afghanistan and I’d remember how it felt so long ago when I realized, for the first time, deep down, that there are only so many summers left.

(photo credit: Brendan Smialowski // Getty)

Originally published here in Charlotte’s Web Thoughts.

[For those who want to listen to this on-the-go, the audio version should be up on Apple’s podcast website soon. You can also listen here.]

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Charlotte Clymer is the Press Secretary for Rapid Response at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ organization. She also serves on the Military and Veterans Advisory Council for Modern Military Families of America, the Board of Directors for the Center for Military and Legal Policy, and the D.C. Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Her political commentary has been published and quoted by numerous outlets. She is a military veteran and proud transgender woman based in Washington, D.C.

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