Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Good Ole Summer Time

There is a certain enchantment about summer.  Nostalgia makes us all misty-eyed for the good old days.  The season has its own unique rituals and traditions that demand strict observance.

Perhaps it’s the Mark Twain/Huck Finn phenomenon that plants memories in our recollections of going bare-foot to the swimming hole every afternoon.  Or maybe it’s just the rosy retro lenses of youth that make the reminiscence of seasons past so pleasant.

In “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Harper Lee describes days so hot that ladies “by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.” I don’t recall feeling like a frosted tea cake exactly.  It was definitely sticky, but the summer heat seemed to be a gentler warm then.

I remember lazy days, going to bed late and sleeping late.  And we always woke up brown and sun-bleached and freckled – the prettiness of youth.

We did a lot of bike riding, swimming, and picnics in those days before Wii games and the web.  Bruises, cuts and skinned knees were healed with band aids and the dreaded ointment, merthiolate.

Summer has a taste.  It’s primarily potato salad, hot dogs, roasted marshmallows and snow cones so cold, you get brain freeze just choosing a flavor.

We really didn’t have tire swings in trees or Boo Radley living down the lane, although I have grafted some of those memories onto my own collection.  But I remember being scared witless by campfire stories – like “Click Shah” – that chilled our spines and give me the “wubba wubbas” even now.

And, of course, there was Lagoon.  An excursion to that amusement island lasted the whole day and into the night.  There were three main attractions that guaranteed thrills, spills and instant nausea…the hammer, the roloplane, and the infamous roller coaster.  You couldn’t wait to get on that coaster, and when you finally did, you could re-ride as many times as your stomach would permit.  Some genetically-challenged guys would ride all day long in the last car, prompting their IQ to drop several points during the course of the marathon.

I didn’t much care for the laughing ladies in the house of mirrors.  They still creep me out.  Nor did I like the terror ride.  My particular contraption of self-abasement was the Tilt-A-Whirl.  It would whirl and twirl, and I would hurl.  Funny, it doesn’t sound nearly as fun now as I recall.  I never seemed to remember to eat my cotton candy AFTER going on the ride.

Like Christmas, summer has its own distinct music.  Just hearing the sounds and back beat, one is instantly transported into July.  Besides the patriotic Seussa marches by the marching bands in the many parades, there are the Beach Boys, James Taylor, and Credence Clearwater Revival.  Those old songs start playing, and I am prompted to grease myself into an oil slick and lay out on tin foil in the back yard.  Of course, that was before ultra-violet rays were invented, and skin cancer was so rare, only old people got it.

Unfortunately, summer ain’t what it used to be.  So far, our day-planner is smeared with appointments for surgery, dental check-ups, skin cancer screening (from too much sun bathing on tin foil in youth, I’m told) prostate exams, and a colonoscopy.  Our road trips are primarily to see the next doctor.  Not exactly the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Summer reading consists of instruction sheets for the latest prescription meds, privacy agreements and co-pays.  And our freckles are actually pre-cancerous actinic keritosis liver spots.

The Boo Radleys in our neighborhood are wars, oil spills, terrorist threats and celebrity infidelities – definitely not the benign recluses who leave pleasant surprises in tree knotholes. 

The scariest campfire stories are the headlines.

Last week I bought Necie her first pair of rose-colored glasses.  She’d been asking for a pair like mine.  At seven years old, they are a sparkly fashion accessory – not yet the mandatory eye-wear for adult-onset bloodshot.  Sometimes she lets me borrow them.  I can see clearly now.

I have decided, in spite of everything, that one can celebrate the “spirit” of summer, if not the reality.  It anchors us to the integrity of the season.

It should always be 10:00 on a morning in July.

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