This time of year always conjures memories of one particular summer’s night in July when I was a teenager. With our family vacation a whole month away and school not starting until September, I was dying for excitement.

After cutting grass, supplemented with an hour of tanning in the backyard coated in oil, I was released by my parents to find whatever fun was available in our little town.

I called my best friend, Patti, like I always did, except for that boring summer when she had a boyfriend. I talked on my retro candlestick telephone, a sixteenth birthday present from my parents, while lying across my yellow bedspread.

First, I confirmed with Patti that neither of us had been invited to a party or had a date.

“Nope,” was Patti’s response.

Next task: borrowed my father’s enormous 1977 Chevy Blazer for transportation.

I met at her house and — after applying copious amounts of lip gloss and teasing our bangs — we headed out to cruise the town.

We drove by the local arcade, Games 101, a hangout of sorts. Although Patti and I didn’t give two shakes about Asteroids or Ms. Pac-Man, the arcade was a veritable command center where information on teenage social events was collected and disseminated. Sometimes we’d receive word of a bonfire in Bennett’s woods or a party at the house of a classmate referred to as “Meatball,” but on this night, the arcade was empty. Rather than driving around glossed up and looking desperate, we decided to scrape together a few of our girlfriends to go check out the drive-in movie theater.

However, the Palace Gardens wasn’t cheap. Rather than spending our hard-earned grass-cutting and ice-cream-scooping money, we devised a scheme to enter the drive-in on the cheap.

Previously, we’d stuffed two of our friends, big hair and all, into the plywood dog crate my father had built into the back of the Blazer, and tried to keep straight faces while driving by the ticket booth. But on this night, we hatched a more daring — and cheaper — plan. We’d all sneak through the woods around Palace Gardens, and crawl over the fence to get in for free.

The six of us met up at Patti’s house, which was within walking distance of the drive-in. We’d heard rumors that Palace Gardens management was cracking down on sneak-ins by lacing the fence with a foul concoction made from watered-down cow manure. Knowing that nothing could ruin the chances of getting a boyfriend like stepping in manure, we were particularly cautious that night.

Using hand signals as if conducting a special-ops raid, we snuck through the woods, giggling and squealing, and breached the fence without incident. Or so we thought.

The double feature included the new hit, “Porky’s,” but we bypassed the risqué scenes flashing on the jumbo outdoor screen and headed straight for the teens loitering near the concessions pavilion.

Just before reaching the group, Peggy whispered, “What’s that smell?”

Had one of our comrades been hit? Our noses quickly found the source of the pungent odor — Andrea’s Jordache jeans had been tainted by the enemy’s foul biological weapon. As teenage girls, our moral codes didn’t compel us to retrieve our wounded, especially after such a successful secret mission. Besides, Andrea was no diva. Refusing to spoil our fun, she headed home to change and meet up with us later, while the rest of us mingled among the cars under the stars on that balmy summer night.

The next night, and the nights after that, were filled with more of the same: Patti and I and our goofy girlfriends scanning the perimeters of our meager summer realm for whatever excitement could be had. Sometimes we found it at Games 101, at Buttermilk Falls, at Meatball’s house, in Bennett’s woods, at the Palace Gardens, and on very rare occasions, on a date. But many nights, we just drove around, glossed and teased, for hours, searching, planning, scheming.

Decades later, I watched as my own teens foraged for excitement on lazy summer nights, and I smiled, realizing what they’d understand someday, too — it’s the scheming itself that’s the most fun of all.

Read more at and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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