Friday, May 23, 2008

Easing into summer

As the Memorial Day weekend kicks off, I can't help thinking about how this holiday has always played such an important role in my life. I know it has serious meaning, a chance to remember those who have gone before us, but for me it has always marked the official start of summer.

As a kid, my family would pack up the car and head to our summer home in Colonial Beach -- the house where I still spend summers -- for the first long weekend of the season. All of my friends here had time off from school and beginning on Friday night we had big plans for the weekend. The gathering would begin on my front porch. From there we'd venture to the old dining room, which actually was more than that. It had a banquet length table which was great for large groups sitting around eating crabs or a smaller group sitting at one end to play raucus games of canasta. My record player was in there, too, and we always had the latest 45s of music by Johnny Cash, The Platters, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers. We spent a lot of nights back there playing cards, partying and dancing. We'd also use the kitchen to bake pizza in the ancient and unpredictable oven and on one memorable occasion we made taffy. What a mess that was!

Over the course of the weekend, there would be badminton games or croquet in the backyard. We'd play chicken in the river. I'm sure that had rules, but I have no idea what they were. I just have old movies of girls sitting atop the boys' shoulders trying to shove each other into the water. I'm pretty sure this was an early predecessor to some of today's more mindless TV reality shows.

In more recent years, when I had my bookstore here, this was the first big weekend for customers returning for the summer season. It was a chance to catch up with regulars, meet new tourists to the region.

And for the past couple of years, since closing the store, this has been the kickoff weekend for the town's monthly Market Day events, in which I am heavily -- and wearily -- involved. I've already loaded up the car with boxes of souvenir T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and even some of my books. The band has been booked -- Dixieland this time. There are plans for hot dogs and barbecue. And the weather, with which I become obsessed for at least a week prior to the opening day, is reportedly going to be spectacular.

I'd love to hear what your plans are for Memorial Day weekend or about the childhood memories you have of this kickoff to summer. Just click on the comments link below and share them with us. Or email them to me at

Whatever you do, drive safely and enjoy the weekend.

Sherryl Woods

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