For me, summer means New York.
And not the city. Olcott, New York. The small town sits about 45 minutes from Buffalo, situated right on Lake Ontario, and it’s my own personal heaven.
My parents both grew up here and had the typical small town life. There is one elementary school, one middle school, one high school. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the real grocery store and the only fast food option is a McDonald’s. It’s a small town stuck in time. The old bars and shops near the beach are frequented by the same people that have been going there for the past 20 years. You won’t find any big housing developments, and you definitely won’t find any malls.
But I never cared. Every summer we spent a month at my grandma’s house. I slept in the same room my mom stayed in during high school. When I was in 7th grade, I proudly hung a Twilight poster right next to my bed.
I was surrounded by my best friends in the entire world: my cousins. Haley, Brandon, Carly, and I rode our bikes and scooters up and down the backstreet for hours on end. When we were old enough, my mom gave us permission to ride up to Bye’s Popcorn and fill the baskets on our bikes with everything from the classic pop to caramel corn. After that, we rode our bikes everywhere. We rode down to the lake to get ice cream and window shop, and up to the elementary school to play on the playground.
We spent hours up in the massive maple tree in my grandma’s front yard. Climbing, dangling, and sometimes falling from its branches, trampling the hostas surrounding the base. We even created “The Tree Club,” of which we were the sole members, and no one else was allowed. Our parents would watch us run and scream from the front porch. There was always plenty of Panda Paws in the freezer, and the orange pop, yes pop, was always stocked.
We watched movies on VHS all night long. We stayed up until all hours of the night laughing, and talking. We made up dances and cheers for our parents on the deck of my cousin’s pool. Every performance ended with us jumping in.
Slowly as the years went on, we climbed the tree less and less. My grandma started buying cable for us to watch for that month we stayed there. I got a laptop and instead of riding our bikes for hours on end, we huddled around the screen playing Sims.
We started talking about the AP classes we were going to take, or even what bedspread we wanted to buy for our dorm room. We browsed through Twitter and Instagram while floating in the pool, prioritizing our tans. We started to contemplate who we wanted to be into the early hours of the morning, shedding tears about relationships we thought were going to last forever.
Then, overnight, we stopped climbing the tree all together.
The bikes sit in my grandma’s shed, and the hostas around the tree have all grown back, and I don’t remember the last time I had an orange pop.
But, all good things have to come to an end. Those summers spent in New York were, and still are, everything to me. I was so lucky to have my life filled with pure childlike wonder. Room to run, roam, skin your knees, and grow like the maple tree.
Now, summers in New York are different, but just as sweet. We drink wine or cold beers on the front porch, looking out at the yard and watching the cars pass by. We talk about college, the people we’ve dated, the late nights we’ve had. We reminisce on our childlike adventures. We listen to our parents stories, and actually take their advice.
You can’t be a kid forever, but every time we cross the bridge and take a left on Lockport-Olcott Road, I feel like I am. The tires roll onto the blacktop driveway and I feel like taking off my shoes, cracking open and orange pop, and parking it in the tree with my best friends.