“Mommy… Mommy…. Mommy!“
The sound of my daughter’s sweet little Saturday-morning voice is gently rousing me from my slumber, and although she’s speaking quietly, I can tell Zoey is excited.
My eyes finally flutter open enough to look at her. Zoey is kneeling on my bed, looking as if she’s ready to pounce, and her hands are clasped together almost as if in prayer. She notices I’m finally awake and smiles.
“Guess what?” she giggles.
I can’t help but laugh, too. Her early-morning enthusiasm is contagious.
“What’s up, buttercup?” I ask.
Zoey spreads her arms and pauses dramatically before she speaks: “It’s SUMMER!”
Although the calendar doesn’t mark the start of summer for another 18 days, Zoey’s last day of school was the day before, so… details schmetails: to her, summer really is officially here.
“Yay!” I say, pulling her into a hug. I start singing the chorus to School’s Out for Summer as Zoey snuggles in closer.
“What are you looking forward to the most about this summer?” I ask.
Zoey considers this before finally answering. “The pool.”
I nod in agreement. “That’s a good one.”
“Oh,” Zoey says, obviously not satisfied with only giving one answer. “And the sunshine. Summer has the best sunshine.”
Again, I can’t help but agree.
* * *
Zoey has every reason to be excited. Her summer weekends will be spent at the pool, she’s scheduled for a week-long outside art camp in July, and August will bring a trip to see her cousins. And next week, she will start her church day camp, a place where she will spend the majority of her summer. The kids will spend their days learning and creating artwork and reading, but mostly, they will spend them outside, running and laughing and climbing on the playground and swinging so high their feet touch the sky.
I am so happy that Zoey will be able to have a fun-filled, laid back summer. But I also am envious, because I, on the other hand, am feeling not so lucky.
On Monday, I will head back to work and spend the majority of my day in a windowless, basement office, and the only sunshine I will get will be the synthetic kind: one that comes in the form of an easy-to-swallow capsule that has been prescribed to me by my doctor for my “significant” Vitamin D deficiency. But I often wonder—does it really do me any good? Because even when I take the vitamin, I still feel like I walk around with a perpetual “brain fog.” My bones often ache, I experience headaches, and I sometimes struggle keeping my energy levels up: I feel tired, and not in a good way.
Although experts have a hard time agreeing on whether Vitamin D supplements are really necessary or perhaps even cause more harm than good, all I have to really go on is what I experience, and to me, sunlight exposure seems to really make a substantial difference in how I feel. Because when my work day is done, and I step outside the confines of my four walls and get my daily dose of real sunshine and real Vitamin D, I immediately feel better. My mind clears, my stress level—for the most part—goes down, and my energy quickly returns. I feel a spring in my step and a lightness in my heart, and when that happens, I can’t help but immediately be transported on a nostalgic ride to my childhood.
* * *
I grew up in hot, humid, Southern cities, ones that excelled in offering perfect lazy, hazy, sunshine-drenched summers. I’m happily nostalgic for those summers, ones where the only plans my brother and I had involved simply being outside. We played in our yard and explored its dark, overgrown corners, searching for fuzzy caterpillars and little roly polys as we pretended we were scientists searching for new insect species. We stayed in a constant state of movement as the sun made its slow arc across the blue skies above, swinging on our swing set, sailing down our homemade zip-line, and playing PIG and HORSE in the front driveway.
When we grew tired of those things, we would head to the neighborhood pool and spend the afternoon swimming, playing Marco Polo, and seeing who could make the biggest cannon-ball splash. We bought Tootsie Pop suckers and cherry-flavored Popsicles from the snack bar, and we’d hang out with all our neighborhood friends. As we left to go home, we would invite them over to ride bikes around our cul-de-sac.
After dinner, the kids would start showing up, one by one. The sun, in its golden hour, would sink slowly to the horizon, and we’d ride around in circles in the fading light to a soundtrack of squeals and laughter and hoots and hollers as playing cards provided a clickity-clickity rhythm against the spokes of our bike wheels. Sometimes we played Kick the Can… Red Light, Green Light… Red Rover… Rock-Paper-Scissors… and sometimes we played silly games we just made up. Sometimes we simply sat around and talked about nothing and everything, our chattering no match for the din of the chirping cicadas that hummed from the trees above us.
As dusk settled in and we’d played a few games of Flashlight Tag or chased lightning bugs, our mom called out her last request of the day: “Come on, kiddies, it’s time to get ready for bed!” Looking forward to the invitation of our cool sheets and overhead ceiling fans, we’d say goodnight and head inside. And when we’d finally climb into our beds with our jammies on and our teeth brushed, we were officially exhausted in the best way possible.
The next day when we woke up, we couldn’t think of anything else that we wanted to do than to do it all over again.
* * *
As children, we filled our summers with the things that were most important: laughter, joy, discovery, play, fresh air, friends and plenty and plenty of sunshine.
And all of those things were so good for us, especially the sunshine. Because while scientists aren’t completely sure if swallowed Vitamin D is any good for us, one thing they do agree on is that the real sun (in reasonable amounts) really can do wonderful things.
…increase blood circulation to our inner organs and muscles.
…greatly enhance our endurance and energy.
…increase our resistance to infections.
…lower our blood sugar levels.
…stimulate our liver to break down environmental toxins.
…lower blood pressure, increase our heart’s capacity for work, and balance our hormones.
…help develop healthy bone structure.
…increase our ability to cope with stress.
So I think I’m going to stop settling for swallowed sunshine, and instead, I’m going to seek out ways to soak it up instead (with sunscreen on, of course). I will actually take a lunch break and try to take a quick walk outside. With the longer days of summer, I can postpone dinner a little bit and take Zoey to the park. We can spend our weekends lounging by the pool. Every day I can find more ways for us to get outside, and we can spend that time discovering, exploring, and simply playing. These are quick and easy ways I can naturally increase my daily dose of Vitamin D, and I have no doubt it will make me feel better every day. Most importantly, it will improve my mood and happiness level, because just like my mom always says, nothing compares to the feel of sunshine on your face.
* * *
“So it’s your first day of summer, Zoey! What do you want to do?”
Although we have a myriad of options on such a gorgeous Colorado Saturday, Zoey and I decide to kick it off by getting outside and having a simple sunshine kind of day: we bike to the local farmer’s market, stop at a park, and then head to the pool in the afternoon. While Zoey—a beautiful ray of sunshine herself—creates childhood memories that she may someday be nostalgic about, I relive my own, ones that are full of nostalgia and happiness. And when bedtime finally arrives, we fall into bed, exhausted in the best way possible.
A perfect first day of summer.
* * *
And today, on this sunny Sunday Funday, we plan to do it all over again, and we think you should, too. Your health and happiness depend on it.
Let Us Know: What’s your favorite way to fill your life with more sunshine?
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.