10. BBQs – Summer has started when I drive home from work, get out of the car, and can smell BBQs in the neighborhood. Can’t you picture really happy dads flipping burgers, kids running around everywhere, the dog sniffing around, hoping someone drops a patty? My dad is a master tri-tip man, and the smell of steaks on the grill always brings childhood back for me.

9. Fire – for the BBQ, campfires, for s’mores, for singing around, small fires to zap ants through magnifying glasses, and definitely fireworks. I love the “boom” and the sparkly falling lights.

8. Beer – Doesn’t even need to be good beer, just enough for flip cup and pong. Something about summer and laying out in the backyard makes a drink at 1pm on a weekday sound totally acceptable.

7. Country – Country music feels so right in the summer. Everyone’s got a little bit of honky-tonk in them, whether they are man enough to admit it or not. So…grab those boots, that hat, and a Tim McGraw CD and git on down to the river or the barn or the saloon.

6. Stars – Summer nights means you stay up later, the stars shine brighter and you can wish for a shooting one and it will dance across the sky for you.

5. American flags in as many forms as possible. Board shorts, napkins, bumper stickers, tats, twinkling lights…there is nothing that shouldn’t have some red, white, and blue on it. Definitely need a big ass one to wave from your house and your pick up on the Fourth of Ju-ly.

4. Summer Romance – When we were kids, we went to summer camp, and the dream was always to find a boyfriend. I remember my first camp boyfriend. His name was Nicholas, and when his boys cabin came and raided my girls cabin, he threw a note on my bed saying he loved me. The next night, we raided his cabin, and I threw one back. Our counselors happened to be dating each other as well, so we did lots of activities together. We sat next to each other, knees touching, holding each other’s sweaty hands, but we did not look each other in the eye or speak to one another. At the end of the week, we exhanged addresses and had a very meaningful hug while the rest of our cabin mates watched. And we never saw each other again. I still remember what I was wearing.

Now my summer romances are with things like puppies I see for a few minutes in the park, or a really good TV show, or the Kombucha on tap at the new Whole Foods. But I still long for those butterflies and stolen glances at the boy who makes your heart pound.

3. Lake. BIG Lake. – Be it a kiddie pool in the backyard, the ocean waves, or Pinecrest Lake with my fam, I love when its so hot you can barely lay out and you gots to get in de watah! I love the way the ocean smells and still finding sand days after you got back from the beach. I love cold, cold hose water to fill up kiddie pools and splashing with babies in floaties.

I love paddleboating and how my fam always gets a party boat and goes out to the same rocks every year to jump off and swim around and how I freak out the whole time that a fish might swim by and touch my leg. The smell of sunscreen, sacrificing a hat or sunglasses to the lake gods during a hysterical attempt at kayaking, casting the “best line EVER” to get a fish THIIIIIIIS big with my brothers.

2. Theme Songs – I believe in spiritual gifts, and mine is making mix tapes. I remember my first boombox, where you could record songs off the radio onto a cassette tapes (these are the tiny boxes with film in them that hold the music sounds, before the days of you kids with your durn compact discs and mp3 machines). I would stay up late at night and flip back and forth between WILD 107.7 and 106.1 KMEL and sometimes the oldies on KFRC and make random mix tapes. Finding them years later would instantly transport me back to those times. These days I make CDs every summer and make sure I label the month and the year. Sometimes I’ll stumble upon them in my car, and all of a sudden I can remember driving with the windows down and the heater on my feet, cruising to 7-11 for a late night slurpee, all the words come rushing back and I remember who I was with and what I was wearing and how free and magical summer always feels.

1. Adventures and Memories – That last minute road trip, “remember that diner we stopped at at 2am?” the time you decided to have a game night and played cards until 4 in the morning; the time you and your best friends saw the sunset and the sunrise together without ever going to sleep; sneaking three people into the trunk of the car to get in free at the driveins, changing clothes in the handicapped stall at the movies so you can go to another show…and then another…sticky hot days at the amusement park, faces stained with cotton candy and hauling a huge and unnecessary stuffed animal around that you won at the over-priced games; the mountains you climbed, the all-day tailgate at the Giants game where we painted our faces; the strangers who became friends, the cities you conquered. The bonfires, the spontaneous dance parties, the sangria, the watermelon, the boys.  And when things go wrong, its just as fun as when they go right because you’re all together.