In our family, the phrase 'Remember When’ opens up a Pandora's box and often brings fits of laughter. The best kind of laughter. The kind that makes breathing and speaking problematic and the tears flow freely and it all becomes infectious and bellies ache in its wake! That kind. Remembering an incident or an event or a daily routine instantly brings our family back to the core of who we are and what we value - love, unity, laughter, goodness and story.
I myself find it is much easier in my oft-murky mind to catalog memories by season rather than chronology. Rarely can I summon up a specific date, my own age or that of my kids, or what life circumstances were swirling around a particular event or moment in my past…but I can recall with great lucidity the summertime pleasure of building forts out of blankets, pillows and chairs on a lazy, school-free morning, or the entrepreneurial excitement of running a lemonade stand, or the pure exhilaration of swinging on a worn, rubber tire inexpertly tied to a tree limb with a long and dangerously frayed rope.
It’s the scents, the sights, the sounds a season brings: fragrant pine trees tickling the sky; young boys balancing on mossy rocks, casting fishing lines into a swift river; toddlers squealing with delight, playing chicken with crashing waves. It's those snippets and snapshots that draw my emotions to the surface and carry me back to a time or a tradition or a fond family routine, squeezing my memory for more of the details…and filling my soul with gladness.
Cultivating gratitude, preserving wonder, creating space for contentment in the here and now while forging hopeful anticipation of what’s still to come. This is the power of memory in my life. The glorious months of summer magically fold my own, seasoned childhood nostalgia into the fresher but equally sweet stories created with my husband and kids. And with that in mind I ask you to indulge me as I sift through that mix of random recollections and pick out some of the most delicious bits and pieces. While they spring from my own experiences, as a child, a wife, a friend, a mom, I have little doubt my own memories are in many ways collective memories, and those of you who are members of a similar generation will find it all strangely familiar.
Endless Days of Summer….
"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Henry James
Do you remember the freedom you felt while riding your bike? Almost like flying. Oh how I loved my beautiful, gold colored, banana seat bicycle, handed down from my older, Barbie-loving cousin Eve. It came with the shiniest tassels on the handlebars. I’m quite sure it was those tassels that gave me the racer’s edge, spurring me on to ride just a little bit faster than my neighbor, Lisa. My ragged pigtails would flap wildly in the wind as I pumped those pedals as hard as my little 6 or 7 year old feet could manage. A moment of fear as my brown, saltwater sandals slipped and scraped against the gravel. A moment of joy as I whipped past the apricot orchard on my left, with the creek not far below, and the house with the overgrown juniper bushes on the right. Oh the endless days of summer….
Or can you hear the distorted and delightful music of an ice cream truck coming up the street, causing us to stop, drop everything, and search high and low for any money anywhere? Somehow we’d always manage to scare up a few coins, and we’d dart outside, where I would gather with all the other sucker parents, on the sidewalk or someone’s front steps, and watch the kids become gooey, gleeful messes. My boys loved anything with blue dye, ensuring their tongues would serve as a vivid reminder of those freezer-burnt treats long into the afternoon. Did the kids realize this almost certainly would result in an evening bath…one of the more dreaded summer pastimes. I myself had a strict summer evening bathing policy. If my boys had been in any kind of body of water…a neighbor’s pool, a backyard sprinkler, or even one of those hard plastic waders filled with water skeeters and grass clippings…within 48 hours of any particular bedtime, they were clean enough, and off to their bunks they went.
Oh but nothing says Summer quite like books both in my own childhood and that of my boys. Reading books in hammocks. Reading books in bed with flashlights. Reading books on beach towels, lying on your back, deftly turning the pages while holding your book just so to keep the sun off your face.
Remember grabbing your stand-by beach or pool bag bag complete with Coppertone 4 tanning lotion, a faded beach towel and a water splashed swollen paper back book? Or recall the deep satisfaction and giddy anticipation of a stack of books precariously tucked under one arm, hand pressed against your hip, head tilted to the side, scanning the not-so-well-alphabetized titles on the library shelves.? Remember discovering a book you haven’t read yet by a favorite author? I’d grab that book off the shelf so fast; it was as if I were grabbing the last loaf of bread off the shelf before hurricane arrives.
The book titles alone take me back to this sweet season….Little House on the Prairie. Secret Garden, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys. Anything by Beverly Clearly, Judy Blume, CS Lewis, Madelyn L’Engle. I relived my childhood reading these books with my boys. Then came Harry Potter, over and over again and My Side of the Mountain, Holes, Frindle, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, How To Eat Fried Worms, Ramona, Magic Tree House, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A View from Saturday…all of them contributed to the wonder that were the endless days of summer.
What Summer snapshots bring delight to your soul?
Photo credit: Rachel Lees