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SALMAGUNDI: Personal time capsules from teenage summers

In May my oldest son closed the book on his middle school life, setting off a few months of existential dread about the beginning of high school.

Hopefully it’s actually not that heavy. He seems ready for the challenge, as do the classmates I’ve had the chance to chat with in recent weeks. As adults, it’s probably our job to play it cool — one thing I recall about being that age is not needing any help to get deep in my own brain about pretty much anything.

Being 13 or 14 in the summer is full of contrasts: Too young for a real job, but old enough to stay home without a parent. Too young to drive, but too old to be forced into a bedtime without school the next morning. Too young to worry about college, but too old to have anything to do with the K-8 district that gave you your first diploma.

It’s been exactly 25 years since my summer between junior high and high school. While in the past I’ve collected advice from readers on entering high school or college, today I’m opting for raw nostalgia. I reached out on social media to ask folks for brief memories about this time in their lives.

As a prompt, I shared three of my crystal-clear recollections from the summer of 1993:

u Getting way too emotional over the final episode of “Cheers” (which actually aired a few weeks before graduation).

u Seeing “Jurassic Park” in the theater and then devouring the book (everyone else read it in sixth grade) while at the beach with my brother’s Cub Scout den.

u A good friend’s graduation party on her 14th birthday, which happened to be Father’s Day and the night the Bulls beat the Suns to complete their first three-peat.

But enough about me. Here are some other responses:

1965: My first sleep away camp. A weeklong band and orchestra camp at North Central College in Naperville.

1969: Played Colt League baseball, took world history in summer school, watched the moon landing.

1974: I had very long hair. I decided to get it cut short the day after school got out.

1975: “Jaws” came out. I read the book on our trip to Florida. I was afraid to go in the pool at the campground because there was a “shadow” in the deep end of the pool.

1976: That was the year of all things bicentennial and I remember everything covered in the American flag — banana seats on bicycles, bell-bottom jeans and my American flag one-piece swimsuit that I loved and wore on a family houseboat vacation down the Mississippi River.

1981: Mine is tragic, but the one definite memory from that summer: Going to a classmate’s wake and funeral shortly after eighth-grade graduation.

1989: A group of friends and I found a stick on the old junior high playground and broke it up and promised to bring it to high school graduation to show we are friends for life. We did. We don’t see or talk much now with families and miles between us, but I know I could call on any stick holders and they would be here for me.

1993: Driver’s ed! I remember thinking the school’s Chevy Corsica was a really nice car because it had cruise control and power locks. Saved up $100 to buy a pair of Birkenstocks.

1993: I had my first opportunity to see a Sox game in the new ballpark. My best friend’s dad took us to the company’s skybox! White Sox beat the Tigers 9-3. Of course watching the Sox all summer long was amazing, leading to the West Division championship!

1994: Watching OJ Simpson’s police chase in a white Bronco during a graduation party.

1994: Building a Papier Mâché Pride Rock with my mom for the movie theater’s “Lion King” display.

1994: We moved from California back to Illinois the day after my eighth-grade graduation. I remember being excited to start high school, but nervous about being the new girl again.

1995: Was all about MJ coming back to the Bulls, “Batman Forever” and “Braveheart,” Jagged Little Pill and the heat wave in Chicago.

1996: Sandberg came back, I saw “Dazed and Confused” for the first time, the self-titled Sublime album was the soundtrack for the summer, 72-10 and the first of the second three-peat.

I’d love to hear what sticks in readers’ minds of their own days between eighth grade and freshman year. Opening those personal time capsules is endlessly fascinating.

SCOTT T. HOLLAND is a former associate editor of The Times who continues to contribute his column plus help with editing and writing. He can be reached at, or

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