LANGHORNE, Pa. -- The first summer song I remember is Band on the Run, whose opening notes are so redolent of a lazy happiness that they might as well have been played on hammock strings instead of guitar.
Hearing it the other day, it instantly evoked our neighbor's Volkswagen bug, the windows cranked down, the volume cranked up, the coconut smell of the Coppertone, a Tide-scented beach towel hanging off my neck like an undone tie, four kids riding unbelted in the back of a Beetle, listening to a Beatle, bound for the beach, summer unfurling like an open road.
I was seven the summer Band on the Run was number one, the same age my eldest daughter is now. Nothing much has changed about summer, except 70-year-old Paul McCartney has given way to Carly Rae Jepsen, and the Beetle is a minivan, and the suntan lotion is a number 45 sunscreen, and the seat belts are securely fastened, and summer songs -- mercifully -- can't get away with lyrics like that bit in Mungo Jerry's In the Summertime, when he sings: "Have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find."
But I still plan to have a drive, to go out and see what we can find in the 74 days of summer vacation that began for our kids on Monday and end, like a prison work furlough, on August 31. (The "104 days of summer vacation" that open the Phineas and Ferb theme song are a long-gone fantasy, alas.)
With no time to spare, I've prepared a summer bucket list -- really, a plastic bucket-and-shovel list -- for 2012, so that 38 years from now, when my daughter hears Call Me Maybe on an oldies station playing hits "from the noughties, teens, '20s and today" she'll have something to remember from that summer. Which is to say, from this summer.
Among these is her first major league baseball game. It won't really be her first, since she saw games as an infant or toddler in Boston, Minnesota and Detroit. But it's the first that will take permanent hold in her memory. She claims to be a Red Sox fan, but a souvenir purchased at any of three ballparks in driving distance of our house -- Fenway, Yankee Stadium or Citi Field -- will be enough to change her allegiance forever. Mine is a weighty responsibility, then, fraught with consequences. It will also be her first exposure to serial profanity, if you ignore that time she saw me trying to assemble patio furniture.
This could also be the summer of street hockey. My 3-year-old son has lately taken to the game and is old enough now to stand in goal and mind the net like a cardboard cutout. A piece of paneling duct-taped to an oven mitt makes a good blocker, but a direct hit from a tennis ball will still cause him to fall over backward, like one of those firing-range targets in the likeness of an old-time bank robber.
Gravity will have its way this summer as we practice our diving, or at least our single dive, so that if the 2028 Summer Olympic diving competition includes the ancient discipline of Cannonball, the boy will be there. And if he isn't, we'll always have this summer's soundtrack of bare feet slap-slapping on some municipal deck, shrieks carried away on the wind, the "Marcos" and "Polos" drifting off into space.
Speaking of the Summer Olympics, we'll watch them from a rented house on Cape Cod, where the TV channels are scarce and news is a distant rumor. It was from there, in Wellfleet, Mass., that Marconi sent the first transatlantic wireless message to England in 1903. England returns the favor (or favour) this summer, when news of the Olympics will wash up on Wellfleet late and frequently garbled in the re-telling, so that rumors of a 9.70 in the 100-meter final will prove three days later to have been a gymnastics score.
This summer I've promised to take the kids golfing, a sport that has mesmerized them on TV. Not the Masters on CBS, mind you, but the golf carts that roll into lagoons on America's Funniest Videos. Likewise, their recent interest in tennis stems not from watching Federer and Djokovic but rather from the ancient tennis balls gone gray-green -- de-fuzzed, the "Penn" barely visible -- that get left in the front yard and then sucked into (and shot out of) the lawn mower, a spectacle every bit as breathtaking as a Wimbledon final.
But all of this will have to wait until the first item on the summer bucket list has been scratched off. I'm filing this from suburban Philadelphia, from a hotel room across the street from the Sesame Street theme park, fulfilling a long-held ambition of ours: To make an epic car trip to a Wally World-style amusement park -- the full Clark Griswold, six people in a minivan driving a great distance, subsisting only on whatever food and carbonated beverage that can fit through the driver's side window.
Whatever you think of the respective skills of Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth, none has truly known pressurized driving until he is stuck on the New York City side of the George Washington Bridge, hemmed in on six sides by cars, trucks, river and sky, and Ms. Jepsen is singing, for the sixth time in an hour, Call Me Maybe. When a voice in the wayback says, "I have to go right now," you will know -- if you ever doubted it -- that driving is the most competitive sport there is.