My Favorite Summer Memories

This one is for you, Jaa, who asked me to write about my favorite summer memories…

The Barn

Until I was seven (when my grandfather passed away), the farm I lived on was a veritable organic farm fantasy, and the barn was my castle. It was always stacked with hay bales, and in its cool darkness we would build forts, chutes, and “couches,” where we (my younger brother and neighbors) would spend hours making stuff up, sliding down long chutes, and in general being kids. But the surprises made it especially memorable…the mewling we heard muffled under the hay that, when we lifted the bale, turned out to be a batch of newborn kittens. Or the day we opened the trapdoor to the pigpen underneath (which made it easy to throw hay bales down for bedding) and saw a mother pig suckling what seemed like forty piglets (I think it was just seven or eight). And then there was the annual soybean harvest, where there was a big pile in the center of the barn, and we would climb the ladder, go over to the edge, and jump into it like an organic sea of mini balls. Oh, the glory! Did anyone know where we were or what we were doing? I doubt it. Did we ever get hurt? Thankfully not. Oh, it was fun!

The Pool

After getting all hot and filthy it was definitely time for a rinse. The glistening turquoise of my grandparents’ pool shone like a beacon in our little summer hearts, and we would swim and swim until our lips turned blue and quivery. We’d take turns jumping off the diving board, making waves, and diving for stuff until we were too cold to take it anymore, and then I’d lie down on the warm concrete by the pool and soak in the heat from the sun until I was ready to go back in again. My mother always hired a lifeguard to keep us all from drowning, and they were always cute boys we loved to taunt and tease. My parents rarely came to the pool to swim, so it was a place of freedom and fun at all times.

The Garden

All that fun and swimming would make us hungry, so we’d have to go on the prowl (I use the word “we” loosely, since it may have included my four imaginary friends). The gardens were filled with food warm from the sun: tomatoes, green beans, peas, mint, raspberries, strawberries, sour cherries from the tree. And then after I was satiated I would find a tree or a grove of bushes to rest, dig, dream, smell the fragrant earth, and get dirty again…which means I would have to go back up to the pool for another rinse.

The Back Porch

A summer day always ended with the loud beep of the car horn, which was my mother calling us all up for dinner. We would be ravenous by then (there were five kids total and always various exchange students and visitors from afar), and we would scarf down dinner as fast as we could so we could go out and hang on the back porch. That was where “quality family time” occurred, which was everyone sitting around talking, watching the sky go dark and the fireflies come out. Sometimes we would run and play tag in the grass, or “roughhouse,” or play on the swings. But we always returned to the back porch to see what we were missing and to rest. Sigh. I was always tired and ready for bed, even when it was stinking hot out and there was no breeze. ZZZZZZ…

Summer Camp

And then there was summer camp. We would go to summer camp in the Poconos for two weeks (Camp Hagan/Miller), and I started when I was SIX! That year I won the youngest camper award. But camp was HEAVEN. The smell of pine. Sugar cereal for breakfast in those thick melamine bowls. Swimming in the Delaware River and working my way up to the “red cap” level, which was the most advanced (the scent of brown river water, the feel of rocks under my feet, the cold freshness moving, always moving…). Sleeping in a bunk bed with the windows wide open. Campfire singing every night (and was that some weird initiation ritual I remember, where a few people got “tapped” to spend the night out in the wilderness?). The canteen where we could spend a ticket after dinner each day, where I would get a Sugar Daddy and savor it until it was just a mangled stick. And then after dinner vespers at a grove in the pine woods, where I would vaguely listen (okay, not really listen at all) to some talk, but I would FEEL the sacredness of the woods and nature, while I built little villages out of pine needles and twigs.

My only vague worry was that my parents would move while I was at camp and forget about me, or that I would forget what they looked like when they came to pick me up. But they always came, and I always remembered, and we would drive home in the giant station wagon and go back to the farm….

What are some of your favorite summer memories?


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7 Responses to My Favorite Summer Memories

  1. Yen July 17, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Beautiful writing & glorious time!!! Gosh it’s like a movie.
    My fav summer memories are very hot days going nude under water tap, eating mangos, sleeping on cool ceramic tiles, selling lemonade to thirsty commuters and all other bits & pieces of childhood 🙂

  2. Yen July 17, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Sugar daddy LOL!

  3. Dana Grim July 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    The colored picture by the pool… look just like your mother!

  4. Barbara July 17, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    I grew up on the southern New Jersey seashore and spent most of my days on the beach, swimming in the ocean, or crabbing on the bay (and occasionally releasing a crab or two on a neighbors lawn. I just could not bear the thought of them being boiled and eaten-they scream! Did not think about them slowly dying in the grass…) At night we played games like kick-the-can or hide-and-seek with all the neighborhood children, and there were lots of them, always changing as families came for vacation and then went home. Sigh. I miss the salt air.

  5. Donna in Delaware July 24, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Waiting impatiently for the ice cream truck to come by. Ice cream and popsicles tasted great then. I’m sure that there was “junk in the ingredients” no organic milk then, but it sure tasted great on a hot summer afternoon. Running through the sprinklers on freshly mown grass felt great, with the sun beaming down on my skin. Although I hated summer, still do, that was a great and fun time for me.

  6. Sharon July 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    OMGoodness….where to begin. Bike riding all summer with ‘no hands’, of course. Roller skating, the kind that fit over shoes and that were tighten with a skate key. Playing in the park; which was across from our house ’til well after dark. Sitting on the front stoop after bath time in our pj’s. Road trips to relatives in Wisconsin, sleeping in cabins, swimming in a river. That was so special cause we were city kids. Building forts with blankets in the backyard, making mud pies. And best of all at the end of the day, slipping under cool white cotton sheets that had dried in the sun all day. I still love to hang my clothes outside. Such a fresh scent. Ahh thanks for the opportunity to take me back in time if just for a few moments.

  7. elizabeth gillies July 26, 2013 at 1:56 am #

    Reading this segment reflected my own most poignant memories of what l cherish as my golden summers with gramps. Spending all day outdoors, the thrill of our victory garden producing just the most succulent tomatoes gramps and l had mixed up his ever evolving organic teas made up of seaweeds and kelps we would collect from beach, along with all kinds of other organic treasures we would collect and brew with him, and then try and duplicate playing with kids making all kinds of soups, potions and important formulas out of the fresh cut grass or alfalfa,and the huge mud puddles which l am enjoying the smell of as l type. I remember the prickly rhubarb rows, and waiting patiently for te that magicical transformation to pies , jams, and salads my grandmother and aunts ( all lived within 2 mile radius between backyard gates ) would render out of those dirty prickly stalks! Simply the most delicious food and joy of life . Thank you for asking us to linger in our zen moments a while to write out these magical memories our human brains were designed to thrive on. which inspires, yet we’re all stewards to nature
    for you,

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