Posted tagged ‘summer’

“It’s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.”

June 22, 2015

The sun is in and out this morning trying to decide what to do. The air is still damp and a bit humid. Right now the sky is dark but the sun is peeking through. Rain is predicted for this afternoon so I’m thinking the sun will disappear for good a bit later.

It is officially summer, and it’s barbecue time. Bring out the ribs, the burgers and the chicken wings then add some sweet summer corn. My home-grown tomatoes are getting bigger on the vine and before too long they’ll be red ripe. July 4th is opening night at the movies. I have three possibilities on the ballot: Independence Day, Jaws and 1776. I’m leaning toward Jaws as it is celebrating its 40th birthday. “We need a bigger boat,” says it all. I have decorations and sparklers and I’m working on the menu. Red, white and blue will carry the day!

Memory is an odd thing. I have vivid memories of my childhood, but I sometimes hunt high and low for where I put my glasses. Some singular moments stand out from all the others, and I don’t know why. They aren’t particularly important moments, but they stay prominent regardless. One memory is silly. I was on the plane to Ghana and we stopped in Madrid. When we got back on the plane, my seatbelt was caught between the seat and the wall so I couldn’t use it. I pretended I was belted when the stewardess went around checking seatbelts. I don’t know why I just didn’t ask for help.

I sat in the back of the room when I was in the sixth grade, but in the front of the room when I was in the eighth. Neither really matters, but I still remember how the rooms looked from each perspective. I remember the candy counter at the movie theater. My favorite nickel bar of candy was a Welch’s Fudge Bar. They aren’t around anymore. My second favorite was a Skybar. You can still buy one of those. The fudge square was my favorite, probably still is. I remember how funny my feet felt in shoes after ice skating. My bologna sandwiches were misshapen because I had to cut pieces from a roll of bologna and some pieces were thick while others were too thin.

I can still close my eyes and see and describe places as they were. I don’t think of it as a trip down memory lane but rather as an adventure back in time.

“I go running when I have to. When the ice cream truck is doing sixty.”

September 28, 2014

Summer has stayed another day. The birds are flying in and out of the feeders, the red spawn has been soaked by the hose a couple of times, kids are riding their bikes up and down the street and the insects are singing. It is a wonderful day.

When I was a kid, my street was visited by so many people doing so many different things. There was the milkman whose bottles clanged in his metal holder as he walked to the back door, the sharpener man who rode a bike with a pedal driven honing wheel and who stopped to sharpen knives and scissors, the trash men who came once a week who carried their barrels behind their backs with one hand, the garbage man who also came once a week, the summer ice cream man who came every day, the junk man who shouted for rags and newspapers from his horse-drawn wagon and the mailman who knew everybody and always stopped to talk. The only name we kids knew was Johnny the ice cream man.

My favorite was the sharpener man. I loved to watch him sharpen knives as the wheel whirled. He pedaled fast and turned the knife from side to side then checked sharpness using his finger across the blade. He never cut himself. That amazed me.

Only the mailman is left, and he uses a truck. I take my own trash to the dump and the newspapers get recycled. My knives are quite dull, but I just bought a new sharpener so I’m hoping for the best. I’m also hoping I don’t cut myself prone as I am to self-inflicted injuries. There used to be an ice cream truck with bells playing a tune, but I haven’t heard or seen one on a while.

My neighborhood is a good one with lots of kids, friendly neighbors and dear friends, but I bemoan the loss of these men from our childhood. They provided services but most of all they provided color, smells and sounds to our lives. I still remember the sound of the wheel and the knife, the clop of the horse on the street and Johnny’s bell, that last one most of all.

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”

August 26, 2014

Today and the rest of the week will be summer warm. It is like a curse of sorts. Every day is cool until school starts then the heat comes. The temperature will hit the 80’s off-Cape.

Growing up I never noticed we didn’t have much money. To me we had what everyone else in the neighborhood seemed to have. I wore a uniform to school so I didn’t need a lot of dress clothes. I had one or two church dresses. That was more than enough. I had school shoes and play shoes. I always put my play clothes on as soon as I got home from school. I never needed prodding to get out of my uniform. We had one car, but that’s all we needed. My mother didn’t drive. We either walked everywhere or took the bus. I remember the trek to visit my aunt and uncle in East Boston. We walked up town, took the bus to Sullivan Square where we took the first of two subway trains. We had to switch lines at a station I don’t remember, but the second train brought us to Maverick Station in East Boston, and we walked just a bit to my aunt and uncle’s. My mother always told us to go to the next station if we got separated. She was hauling the four of us with her and had to watch my younger sisters so my brother and I had to keep our eyes on her. I remember kneeling, looking out the train window and watching everything whiz by us. I liked being underground and seeing all the pipes and hearing the squealing of the wheels at each turn. As the train lurched so did the people.

We lived in the project. It was all duplexes with front lawns, trees and backyards. Our house, as that’s how we thought of it, had three bedrooms, a living room and a smallish kitchen. We never felt in any way stigmatized by living in a project. Most of the adults were around my parents’ ages and there were tons of kids. We were never wanting for a playmate or someone to walk to school with or go see a movie. We lived there until the move to the cape. When I visit my sister who still lives in that town, I sometimes drive by our house. The trees and bushes are huge now, but it looks the same from the outside. Once when I drove by the house was empty but I didn’t get out to look. I should have. I’d have seen the living room through the picture window in front and the kitchen from the back steps. The cellar door was below a flight of stairs and I would have seen the sink for the washing machine from the door window.

We didn’t go away much or out to eat, but we never cared. We had woods and the swamp, the zoo, train tracks to walk, the dairy and a whole town to explore on our bikes. Life for us was rich.

“That familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

July 7, 2014

Yesterday got so busy for me I didn’t make it back to post music. I spent the time getting ready to celebrate a belated 4th of July. I had to make 2 trips for last-minute stuff, organize the dishes and bowls, sweep the deck and wash the table. My friends arrived at 2 and left at 9. It was a wonderful evening. We played games first on a table filled with appetizers then we had dinner then took a small break before dessert. The weather was perfect with a cooling breeze.

Today started out sunny but has since clouded over. The breeze is strong and chilly. It is supposed to be quite warm and humid later so I’m appreciating the cool morning.

When I drove to breakfast today, I was a gawker. All along my familiar route were people outside enjoying the start of the day. I saw dog walkers, a woman watering her lawn, a man with an electric saw trying to get rid of a huge stump in his front yard and joggers and golfers. Old Main Street, filled with historical homes, drew my attention today. I see them all the time but mostly from a side glance as I drive by. Today I was taken by the beauty of their front gardens and the houses themselves, each with a dated plaque. I think it one of prettier rides on the cape, and I get drive it whenever I want. That’s a nice gift.

Summer makes us more familiar with each other. We are out of our houses, out of bulky coats and scarves, the windows are opened and we smile at one another or nod as we pass. I stop and chat with my neighbors. We have just come out of winter hibernation, and we need to get reacquainted, catch-up with the latest news. We bemoan the Red Sox and their tumble from greatness. We talk about the weather: no conversation around here is complete without a mention of the weather, either loving it or whining about the heat and humidity. We wish each other the best of all summers then I say good-bye, wave and drive home. We’ll see each other again. It is after all summer.

“In summer, the song sings itself.”

June 21, 2014

Some words are magical not because they possess any special powers but because they conjure all the best memories and bring hope for more. Summer is one of these words, and the mere mentioning of it fills my head with remembrances. We visited my father’s aunt once and swam in her pond. It had leeches, and when we got out of the water, they were on our arms and legs. My mother freaked. My brother and I just pulled a few off each other. I can still see in my mind’s eye the pond, the overturned derelict white rowboat with flowers all around it, the Adirondack chair where my mother was sitting when she saw us and the black leeches on my arms. I think I was around five or six, the age of curiosity, not fear. On one New Hampshire vacation, there was a small waterfall by our cottage. My brother and I sat at the top, and I remember how funny the moving water felt under my legs. Playing softball in the heat of the afternoon made me sweaty and dirty, badges of honor. Sleeping outside at night was glorious. Every night there were a million stars. The drive-in meant pajamas, home-popped corn, bug juice and never seeing the end of a movie. The streetlights stopped mattering. Meals were haphazard, no special time. Sunday dinners went on hiatus. Shorts and shirts and sneakers were the clothes of every day.

Even my adult summer memories are filled with laughter and fun. Saturday night movies on the deck always mean popcorn, malted milks balls and nonpareils. Sitting around the table having a few drinks and playing Sorry is a summer tradition. One memory is among my favorites. At the end of my street, there are bushes not in gardens but along the side of the road, and they  make seeing cars and getting safely out of the street difficult. I remember sneaking up to the bushes one night and trimming them. We skulked like commandos. Why no one heard us laughing is still a mystery. We stay outside late on the deck. All around us are quiet houses with their lights out. We always feel bad for them missing all the fun of a summer evening.

Today is the first day of summer, and it makes me want to giggle. Summer does that to me!

“Get close to grass and you’ll see a star.”

June 16, 2014

The day is glorious. I was out and about early: met my friend for breakfast, went to the dump, shopped at Agway and went to my local vampire for blood drawing. On the way home I saw a field of dandelions aglow in bright yellow and stopped to look. I smiled all the way home.

Today will be in the low 70’s here, low 80’s in Boston. It is a day to be outside, to sit in the sun with a good book and a cold drink.

When I was a kid, I never minded the heat. On the hottest day, we would run through the sprinkler. The water was always cold. Sometimes we’d jump over it while other times we’d stand in the spray as the sprinkler spun. I remember the sprinkler always made a whirr sound when its arms turned, and the arms turned so quickly they almost blended together. My dog used his paw to stop the sprinkler so he could get a drink of water. We always thought he was the smartest of dogs to do that.

My dad was never thrilled with our sprinkler jumping because the lawn took a beating, and he loved his lawn. In our neighborhood, men were judged by the quality of their lawns. My father mowed his every Saturday with the hand mower. He swore by that hand mower the whole of his life. It always cut the lawn exactly right he’d say. I liked to listen to him mowing. The mower blades clicked as they turned, and I could tell when my father changed direction because the mower would be quiet for a minute or two. My father would finish off by raking, and that too had a distinctive sound, a scraping sound. His pile of grass would get bigger and bigger as he raked, and he had to work harder to keep the pile moving. When he was done, the mowed grass went into a barrel and he’d dump it later in the afternoon.

My parents moved while I was in the Peace Corps, and I never lived in that house, but I stayed there summers. My Dad had a front lawn on two sides of the driveway. He kept his mower in the garage for the winter and got it sharpened every spring. I can remember my Dad asking me if I had noticed how great his lawn looked when I had parked in front of their house. I always told him it was the best lawn in the neighborhood, so green and lush. That always made him happy.

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”

April 17, 2014

The red spawn has me crazed. I run out onto the deck and chase it every time I see it at the feeder. Yesterday I threw a plastic bottle at it from the upstairs window. It ran off as fast as its little feet could move. I’m now thinking a Have-a-Heart trap and relocating the spawn miles away from here but near woods and trees with pinecones. A change of scenery might be just what the spawn needs. I’ll think of it as his summer digs.

Last night was winter cold, in the 20’s. Today is still cold and windy. The sun is intermittent.

When we have a really nice, spring-like day as we did a few days ago, I get hopeful and sit on the deck in the sun. I breathe in air redolent of spring and its first flowers. Off in the distance are the sounds of mowers and grass blowers clearing and cleaning yards, a spring ritual. I am then even more certain winter has taken its final bow but then comes a morning like yesterday’s. A coating of snow-covered the garden and the grass and made walking slippery. The snow had that crunchy frozen sound, and it didn’t melt until later in the day when it got warmer. I love that snow this time of year always has me thinking about my dad. He called it poor man’s fertilizer and now all of us do.

I don’t remember when I started noticing the way the seasons change. I know when I was a kid each season had an identity. Summer was months of no school. It was staying up late, sleeping outside in the backyard and being gone all day on my bike exploring places like the railroad tracks, the farm and the zoo. Fall was school and colored leaves to be preserved in ironed wax paper. It was Halloween and Thanksgiving. Winter was Christmas. It was snow days and sledding down the hill and ice skating at the swamp. Spring of all the seasons has the palest identity. It was shedding the winter layers of clothes, riding my bike to school and it was Easter and the Easter basket, always the best part of the day. I knew they’d be a rabbit with ears prime for eating, a coloring book and crayons and a few more small toys. The grass hid the jelly beans and hard colored candy eggs with white in the middle. I still don’t know if they have a name. New clothes were part of the day but didn’t bring me near as much excitement as that basket.

Now I see the seasons by the changes, not the events. Spring is my favorite season when the world slowly wakes up from winter. I am so excited when I see the first green tips of the flowers in the garden: the crocus, the dafs and the hyacinths. Every day brings more and more flowers to life, and I check the garden every morning so as not to miss a single flower.

Spring comes slowly, and I am still learning to be patient.

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. “

March 22, 2014

Winter is a solitary season. I sit in my warm house with the doors shut against the cold. My neighbors and I wave as we drive pass each other going one place and another. The world goes quiet when it’s winter, and I seldom hear outside sounds except for the rain and the wind. I have more sloth days in winter than in any other season. Winter days are for flannel, sweatshirts and warm socks. Winter nights are for down comforters. I read, sometimes the whole day into the night. I like soups and stews and macaroni and cheese. An afternoon nap is a bit of bliss. I abide winter in its turn.

This time of year is the yin-yang season, the time of winter and spring. It is the most frustrating of all the seasons because it isn’t really one or the other. The calendar says spring but the weather is sometimes wintry, cold and even snowy. Two warm days lull us into thinking it is spring then a day of 23˚ throws winter right back at us. The only consolation is in the garden where the spring bulbs have become flowers bursting with color. Today will be warm. Tomorrow will be in the 20’s during the day and the teens at night.

Summer is the social season. I am out and about a couple of evenings each week and spend my days on the deck sitting under the trees, sometimes reading, sometimes just sitting. My friends and I have our movie nights and game nights. My neighbors are out in their yards mowing and raking and playing with their kids. I can hear their voices from my house. The birds are loudest in the morning when they greet the new day. I love the songs they sing. The front garden is filled with flowers of every color, and I always stop to admire it  when I go to get my papers. The rain in summer seems gentler even with thunder and lightning. Sometimes I sit under my outside umbrella during a rainstorm just to hear the drops. I love summer nights with all the sounds of night birds, the flickering of fireflies in the backyard and the candlelight glowing from the glass tree hangings. Summer is just so glorious.

Fall is the magnificent season, my favorite of them all. The garden shops are filled with pumpkins and mums whose colors are a bit muted, perfect for fall, the end of the growing season. It is still warm here during the day but cools a bit during the night. In late fall, when even the days get cool, I always think they are a slow easing into winter, a warning about what’s coming. I know winter must have its turn, but I wish it wasn’t at the expense of fall.

“If you stand still outside you can hear it… Winter’s footsteps, the sound of falling leaves.”

October 27, 2013

If you looked up fall in the dictionary, they’d be a picture of today. The sun is shining, the sky is a pale blue and the breeze is brisk with a bit of a chill. Fall is in full burst. My front yard is filled with fallen leaves and pine needles. The grass doesn’t needed mowing any more. Yesterday my irrigation system was shut down for the season, and today I’ll clear the water from my back yard hoses. It’s time to close down the deck for the season though I’ll save a place to sit on a sunny day, my big wooden chair. I love fall, but I find it sad when fall begins to move toward winter.

Summer is always exuberant. It is warmth and colors and the sweet smell of flowers wafting through the air. Every morning I’d get the papers and then stop to look at my front garden. I’d lean against the car and marvel at the beauty of the flowers. I always noticed a few empty spots and would get excited at needing to buy new flowers. I can never have enough flowers. I’d finally pull myself away and go into the house, get my coffee and go outside on the deck. It takes me a long time to read the papers when I’m outside. I stop and watch the birds at the feeders and Gracie in the backyard. I listen to the singing. I raise my face to the sun and close my eyes. Summer fills me.

Fall always seems to have a faster pace than summer, and I think of October, nearing its end, as the bridge between fall and winter. Fall has a unique beauty when the leaves turn, and the trees are filled with color, muted color. My garden celebrates the season with fall flowers. The plants I put in last year were in full bloom this fall, and I was surprised as I had forgotten planting them. This year I added three more fall flowers, and they must have been happy to be planted as they bloomed a week or two later. Of all the seasons fall surprises me the most. The days are sometimes as warm as summer while the nights get downright cold. The sunlight slants in an odd direction. Darkness comes earlier and earlier.

My heat comes on in the mornings now. I can hear it as I’m waking up. The days seem to be warm enough to keep the furnace at bay, but I doubt that will last too much longer. Winter is coming.

“I love how summer just wraps it’s arms around you like a warm blanket.”

May 16, 2013

Today is supposed to be warm, maybe even hot. Yesterday Skip, my factotum, was here all day getting the backyard and deck ready for summer. Looks like the timing was perfect. The vegetable garden was weeded, its fence mended, candles hung in the trees, furniture uncovered and cleaned, Gracie’s holes filled, including the one closest to China, backyard ornaments put into the ground and my favorite new addition set up from the heavy pine tree: two stars hung together with five tails extending from them all in white lights. I put them on the timer and last night the stars were beautiful. A few things remain, like planting the veggies and adding flowers and herbs to the pots and getting the shower ready, but that’ll wait until it’s warmer every day. I can’t help it. Seeing the deck ready makes me excited to be out there every day.

When I was a kid, and it was summer, we never stayed in the house, even when it rained. We’d find a leafy tree and stay under it to keep as dry as we could. Most days, though, we’d spend at the playground on the field at the bottom of our street. There were two college students there and at each of the playgrounds in town. They ran all the activities. One summer I painted a tray, and it was the best painting I’d ever done. Every summer I’d make lanyards or bracelets out of gimp. I could do all different knots. The first one I learned was the square knot then the round and then the flat. The round was for the lanyard and the flat was the best for a gimp bracelet. I made pot holders on that square loom with the hooks where you wove the cotton. I think I gave my mother one for every Christmas for years. I played horseshoes, checkers and softball and learned to play chess and tennis. For years I spend the entire day at that playground. The local paper, The Independent, had a playground section once a week,and I got my name in the paper a few times for winning at horseshoes and for being the winning pitcher in softball. Nothing makes a kid happier than to see her name in print.

I out grew the playground and spent summers round the house more. By the time I was a teenager, my friends and I were at the go out at night stage. I was on a drill team and we had drill practice two nights a week, and once every couple of weeks we’d go the drive-in. Some nights we just hung around the way teenagers do. My mother didn’t seem to miss the potholders.