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What does summer mean to you?

Summer means different things to different people: summer jobs, summer romance, summer school, or perhaps, ice cream, boating or congregating at the lake at the pool. The two words that come to mind when I think of summer are sunshine and freedom.

Summer's freedom as a child began the moment the school bell began to ring dismissing class for another year. We left our elementary school with a gleam in our eye and big plans for the next few weeks including catching night crawlers, riding bikes, and exploring the great outdoors. Maybe it's just me, but it seems the students of today do not view summer with the same anticipation as I did. Most prefer to sleep until noon, gorge on fast food meals and play video games or crash in front of the computer until the day has expired. To be stuck in the house on a beautiful summer day would have been like a torturous prison for me.

My fondest childhood memories involve playing in the sand, competitive games of badminton, catching lightening bugs, and delivering pretend “mail” to every nook and cranny throughout our yard in our mail truck/Huffy bike. Although not all my summer memories involved fun, almost all of them involved the freedom of frolicking outside in the sun. Sure, we mowed the yard, hoed acres of tobacco, and broke thousands of beans on the porch well after dark, but even those chores allowed family interaction, physical exercise and liberation from being stuck indoors.

I have carried the love of summer and the sun with me well into adulthood. There is nothing more relaxing to me than taking a good book on the back porch and watching my eight year-old continuously circle the driveway on his bicycle. I'm one of those freaks who rush through my necessary household chores in the early morning hours so that I can escape outside for at least a few hours in the afternoon. Although vegetable and flower gardening can certainly be difficult work, one cannot argue the of pleasure of enjoying the beauty of a personal flower garden or sense of accomplishment when harvesting healthy, home grown vegetables. I even enjoy mowing the yard. It allows me to reflect on the gorgeous mountains, breathe the fresh air, and just chill from the inevitable stress of life.

Upper East Tennessee is a gorgeous place to live. While I'm not a huge fan of snow, especially since it no longer involves being afforded a “snow day,” I think is can be both beautiful and peaceful. I am utterly amazed year after year at the beauty of the leaves in the fall. I become immensely ecstatic when I notice the trees beginning to bud in the spring, but I must admit this time of year is my all-time favorite especially since summer means sun and freedom. Couldn't we all use a little of both?

Another “freedom” rings especially true to me this year as my oldest son is preparing to graduate from basic training with the United States Air Force in a couple of weeks. Not only will he be FREE from the constant badgering of his intense Technical Instructor, he will be preparing to face unique challenges in order to serve and protect the freedoms we have as Americans.