Sometimes, what you see on TV doesn’t match up with real life. When I think back to what television taught me about summer breaks in the 90’s, it consisted of adventures at camp or family vacations. I fondly recall movies such as Camp Nowhere, Heavyweights, and National Lampoon’s Vacation, all of which helped form my expectations for the summer. Sadly, this reality did not match my own and my summers were spent either home alone or visiting family.
It wasn’t until I became an adult and conversations regarding childhood vacations came up that I realized how different my childhood was. Between having divorced parents and a lack of financial means, I didn’t experience a lot of what television and marketing taught me to expect out of the summer. And while there will always be a part of me that wishes I got to experience all the camp antics I’d seen in Salute Your Shorts or the Friday the 13th Series (outside of all the death and destruction, of course) I have some great memories of my summers with my mother and grandmother.
The weekdays of my summer were usually spent with my mother at her job at a Tae Kwon Do school. There’s not much to do inside a martial art school, but my brother and I would build forts with the mats and have sword fights with the blockers. Whenever that stopped being fun, we’d take off to explore the shopping center that was anchored by a Kroger grocery store.
Inside the Kroger, we’d explore each aisle and check out the latest cereals. For our main event, we’d end up in the magazine section where we’d read magazines and occasionally buy one. Nickelodeon Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and Disney Adventures were our favorites, but this was also the place where I was first introduced to MAD Magazine. The outrageousness of Spy vs Spy and the satire of all the Hollywood blockbusters I was looking forward to during the summer made MAD a must-buy for me. I’d save every penny that I could each week to make sure I had enough funds to buy the latest issues whenever Kroger restocked.
My MawMaw lived in a small apartment and worked full-time at a local grocery store, still, she made sure to do whatever she could to ensure we had a fantastic summer. We’d spend many days at the apartment pool or on the tennis court playing tennis with broken thirty-year-old rackets. If it was rainy or too hot, she’d take me to my favorite place in the world, the video store where I was allowed to rent whatever I wanted. This was crucial since it meant I was able to watch all the movies my father banned such as Pulp Fiction and I Spit on Your Grave.
In the afternoon, MawMaw would pull the coffee table out in front of the TV and cover it with a towel. Then, she’d work on dinner while my brother and I watched all our favorite afternoon shows such as Darkwing Duck, Ducktales, Rescue Rangers, and Full House. We’d eat dinner at that coffee table and depending on the evening we may have enjoyed ice cream, go to the library, or watch more TV while my grandmother read her Danielle Steel books.
Being a movie-obsessed kid, I really looked forward to the new movies each summer. Back in the 90s, it was common for novelizations of the films to be released ahead of the actual movies and these books became must-owns for me. My grandmother was a huge reader and always wanted to support my passion for reading so it was rare for her to turn down a request for a novelization, even if it was Independence Day, Jingle All the Way, or Armageddon.
I’d devour these books in the days leading up to the movie’s release and I’d anxiously await the day the movie began showing in the local dollar theater. I knew once the movie had made its way to the more affordable option, my grandmother would take my brother and me to see it complete with popcorn, drinks, and candy.
My summer may not have been filled with theme parks or campfire stories, but they were still fun. I got a chance to watch movies, enjoy my favorite TV shows, and read a lot. When I think back to my childhood, some of these memories are my favorites which is what summer should really be about. Doing the things that you love, discovering new things, and creating memories that last a lifetime.
You can find Brandon discussing his love of the ’80s and ’90s at MiddleAgedFatKids.xyz.