Whether it's on the playground or at summer camp, while playing baseball or enjoying a day at the pool, summer is a time to relax, let loose and -- if you're a kid -- be rid of homework, tests and studying.
On the grassy fields of Mitchell Park, a little bit of everything is happening on a recent day. A group of kids is dressed up, carrying swords and throwing beanbags -- "Live Action Role Playing," they call it. It's too nuanced for the passerby to understand, but what's clear is their enjoyment. "Fireball!," one yells as he prepares to hurl a beanbag. Elsewhere in the park's vast oasis are more of the everyday signs of summer: a child quacking and jumping on the play structure with his mother remarking, "You're a duck!"; another playing on the grass while his dog balances on its two hind legs for a second, as if trying to be a kid; a girl climbing up a tree trunk while announcing, "I'm just going to stay here."
The smell of barbecue and smoke from the grill, helped by a cool breeze, wafts into the blue afternoon sky. Nearby at the Magical Bridge Playground, youngsters swarm around the swings, slides and play structures. Here, they are lost in their own world, playing tag, riding the stationary bikes, kicking their legs out as they swing up and then back down like a pendulum.
In the wading pool at Rinconada Park, children splash around. The scene is serene chaos as they flick water at each other and scream with delight while a handful of nearby parents help keep their children afloat as they learn to float on their backs. Outside the pool, it's many of the same antics under the multiple sprinklers and the mushroom-shaped fountain that rain down water on giggling children. The waterworks add a touch of organization to the bedlam.
Later in the day at the baseball field at Bayland Athletics Center, nestled between the Bayshore Freeway and the Palo Alto Airport, families find a peaceful escape from the chaotic rush-hour traffic a short distance away. On this evening, teams in the Babe Ruth League match up for a game sparsely attended except for a handful of dedicated parents in the stands. The quiet backdrop allows for the sounds of America's pastime to echo and take full effect -- the loud clang of the metal bat making contact with the ball, the pop of the ball hitting the catcher's mitt after a strikeout.
In this game, one team is already out to a four-run lead in the early innings, but the score is secondary. Little League baseball is about teammates bonding, creating camaraderie and having fun playing the game they love with friends. From the dugouts, they shout encouragement in baseball code. "Work the count," one of them says, imploring the batter to take more pitches. "Way to get two!," another hollers after a double play for the third out of an inning. And then the two teams switch sides, offense to defense, and vice versa, as the game -- and the summer -- beats on.