1. Lay out in the grass
I’m not talking about a picnic, so no blankets. Just take off your socks and shoes, find a nice big patch of lawn somewhere, and sprawl out. Stretch every limb out as far as it’ll go, making sure to grab big fistfuls of grass when your arms have extended to the max. Roll around a few times, ideally at around three or four in the afternoon, the sun at that perfect forty-five degree angle of shine, while you think to yourself, I could fall asleep here, seriously, why don’t they make beds as comfortable as they make this lawn?
This particular activity is best enjoyed right now, these very first few days of summer. After a wet spring, the grass is finally soft and full for the first time all year. And since it’s still early in the season, the infinite broods of mosquitos and beetles have yet to really assert their presence to the outside world. Enjoy it while you can, because summer only gets hotter, and the grass is never as green as it is by the end of May.
2. Plan a picnic
Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like if you plan a picnic anytime past mid-June, the whole event invariably winds up getting overrun by bees. But much like my earlier point about mosquitos and beetles, the bee population just hasn’t had time to populate the area, let alone strategically plan out ways to circle all of your beloved picnic foods en masse.
But picnics are about so much more than food. It’s a great opportunity to play all of your favorite lawn games. I’m talking Can Jam, Corn Hole, badminton and croquet. Basically anything that’s really easy to set up and only involves one hand to play. I could play outdoor games for hours.
3. Eat a whole watermelon
I know that you can buy watermelon all year, but it’s something that you have to go out of your way to look for off-season, and it’s never really the same. Not like it is early summer, where every aisle of every supermarket is something like fifty percent stocked with watermelons. They’re everywhere, pre-sliced, cut up into cubes, blended into smoothies.
But trust me, the best way to eat a watermelon is whole. Even if you only do it once a year, it’s one of the most enjoyable methods to consume fruit. Buy the watermelon, put it in the fridge, and go out for a long run. Don’t bring any water with you, and make sure that you push yourself just up to that point where you feel like you might be in danger of passing out. Then come home and eat the entire watermelon. Eat it with a spoon. Slurp up the watermelon juice when you find yourself staring at an emptied out rind, asking yourself, did I really just eat a whole watermelon by myself? You did, and it was amazing.
4. Get some Mr. Softee
Wait until around two or three in the afternoon and then hang out on the corner of the local public middle school. OK, you know what? That came out wrong. Go to a park, take a walk past the a busy baseball or soccer field, or if all else fails, just sit by the front of your house with the window open, listening for that faint but unmistakable music-box melody, the Mr. Softee song. Slurpees are OK in a pinch, and I guess the pizza store Italian ices will work if you really can’t find a truck, but Mr. Softee is the preferred way to ring in the summer.
When it’s your turn on line, trust me on this one, don’t go for anything fancy, not yet. There’ll be plenty of opportunities later in the season to go for the milkshake or one of those Incredible Hulk popsicles with gumballs for eyes. But for the first Mr. Softee of the year, just get a classic soft-serve cone. One lick and I feel like I’m a little kid again, like I’m hanging out with my grandfather and he just bought me a cone. If you really want to get into it, make sure you get ice cream all over your shirt and face, but your mom’s going to yell at you for making such a mess when you get home.
5. Play some pickup basketball
Everybody always talks about playing basketball. At least, that’s what it was like for me. Every year around this time, all of the guys would start paying lip service to getting together at the park and running fives. But it can be intimidating, showing up at a court, everybody else is already playing, there are all of these unwritten rules and etiquette that everybody there already just kind of knows.
Just grab four friends, make plans to show up, and if the court is already packed, if the sidelines are brimming with people waiting to play, start asking, “Who’s up next?” Eventually you’ll be up, and even if your first game is anything like mine was, like a total blowout, just hop back at the end of the line and wait for another go. You’ll get better, and if you make basketball a regular thing, you’ll meet people and make friends. Plus, the Mr. Softee guy always shows up at the basketball courts, so it’s a win-win.