“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island
If spring brings hope, then summer brings opportunity. We are blessed with sunny days and steamy afternoons. Vacations are planned with meticulous details. Day trips are taken to off-beat locales. Our flowers are bursting rainbows of delight. We long for refreshing blue pools complete with boat drinks and laughter of friends. The evening air brings wafts of singeing meat. The laughter of children’s night games echo across lawns. A dog barks. The full summer strawberry moon arrives to welcome the harvest of sweet fruit.
Now that I am tip-toeing slowly and cautiously towards my seventh decade here on this big blue ball, I realize summer has taken on various incarnations in my life. Most contain treasured memories of play and books and warmth, but I acknowledge I have been lucky in my sheltered life. There are many who dread summer with its excessive heat. Tempers flare. Accusations are hurdled like daggers toward innocents. Food is scarce and sheer existence is a Sisyphean feat.
For me, though, summer has always been a special magic of gifted time. Time to read my favorite authors again. Time for sweet drinks and outdoor play. Time for uninterrupted creative adventures.
When I was a young girl, the neighborhoods we lived in were our kingdoms. We had the luxury of freedom. There were no playdates or scheduled day camps. We ran out the door after breakfast and were called in to dinner by the bell on our back door. Our feet were always dirty. We built forts with scrap wood. We captured frogs in buckets. We played Ghost in dark back yards.
As a teenager, summers changed. Most of us had part-time jobs that took up days or evenings, but those nights we had free were like perfect magic. We cruised streets looking for familiar cars. Quarters were collected to fill up gas tanks. All we needed was warm beer in paper cups, WLS on the radio, and the collective myth we would all still be friends after high school.
After I had children, my summers were both loud and quiet, almost at the same moment. We had peaceful mornings gathering library books for summer reads. Afternoons were the pool, splashing water and eating frozen candy bars. Evenings were baseball games, boys rounding bases as mothers screamed, “Bring it home!” Later after baths, we would cuddle for well-known stories and bedtime songs.
Now that my children have grown and I’ve retired, summers are a different entity. The days are hushed. My time is my own. I often plot grand plans, only to find myself curled up on the couch with a book. I have an occasional date with my granddaughter or lunch with an old friend. I love to get in my car and drive to little towns with quirky soda fountains and picturesque landmarks. I take pictures. I write about these moments. I breathe in the stillness.
Even on these muted days, I still hear little boys’ feet padding down the stairs in their summer PJ’s. I smell ballpark popcorn and taste stale beer. I hear Larry Lujack in the static airwaves of the night. I see the ghosts of past summers filter through my memories, and I feel a hollowness in my chest I can’t fix. Those summers are gone, but never…ever…forgotten.
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” - Charles Bowden