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Column - Summer changes as years pass by

Eight years ago, summer vacation meant watching the stars by a campfire, riding bike to the lake, and ice cream sandwiches melting down sticky fingers. It meant sunny, 90-degree weather resulting in blistering sunburns after a day at the beach.

Summer vacation eight years ago meant just that - vacation.

But summer has changed. There is rarely a sunny day in which to sit outside and sweaters are still in fashion, even though it's July. Summer camp advertisements can be found more often in brochures and on bulletin boards; television and computers have become focused entertainment.

For teenagers, like myself, it also seems like the main summer time consumer is work.

People have been working since they were little: mowing lawns, washing dishes, or walking dogs. But somehow this work has changed over the years - along with the reason for working.

Eight years ago, the money didn't matter. My friend and I thought we were rich to come home with two dollars jingling in our pockets - the bounty we acquired after a four hour work day at a lemonade stand that we set up on a street corner: a plastic table as our counter, red cups as our cashbox and packet lemonade as our product.

Two dollars was a treasure chest - unbeknown to us that the lemonade itself cost more than that. It was more about the experience of who could sell the most lemonade, or flag down the most customers - neither the work nor the pay. It was an adventure.

For teenagers now, though, it's not about the adventure, but the pay.

Lemonade stands were the epitome of summer - yet I haven't participated in one for years.

When did I grow up and have to stop being a kid? Everything seemed so much easier and light-hearted then. Late night sleepovers on weekdays, and doing nothing just because we had time used to be daily occurrences in our lives - but now they are seldom events.

I remember when I was younger I had a friend who lived just down the street. Every day we would run to one another's houses and hash out our plans for the day: bike riding to City Park, running through a sprinkler, night games after dusk. We would go inside only when the sun was too smoldering to stand or water was needed to purge our thirst.

But summer has changed as we have grown up.

Now we contact each other through text messages or cell phone calls instead of running to one another's house. We drive our cars to the park and go out to eat when we are hungry. We have jobs instead of lemonade stands, and work uniforms instead of T-shirts.

Summer has changed.

And as the years have passed I've grown into what I used to idolize.

When I was 9, teenagers seemed like Greek Gods or Hollywood movie stars. They were shiny and couldn't do anything wrong.

I idolized them because they could drive anywhere they wanted to and spend hours with friends. They were free and independent.

But now, eight years later, I realize that I didn't have the entire story right - being a teenager means more than that.

It means being responsible and making decisions. It means being independent and learning from mistakes. Being a teenager means growing up.

In less then eight years we were pulled from kid-hood to become adults.

The fact is: I miss being a kid.

I sometimes watch my little brother create science experiments in the kitchen, and have battles with plastic swords. I see the creativity blossoming from his fingertips and remember that same creativity pouring from my fingers when my older brother and I created tents out of blankets in our front yard, and played pirates in the pool with a raft as our ship.

Even though I may not see it now, that same creativity is still reflected in my life, it just springs up in different ways - coming up with an imaginative game to capture the attention of 20 preschoolers, deciphering the best way to mop a cafeteria room floor or laying out an organizational system for a storage room.

There are roughly 91 days in summer vacation.

Summer for little kids means bike riding to the lake and camping out. It means time with friends and doing nothing.

That was fun while it lasted. But now I am what I longed to be.

Just yesterday I was a kid, and now I'm not.

Summer has changed dramatically as I have grown up, but then again, so have I.

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.