As I sat in front of my air conditioner this past summer, trying to fend off yet another series of “Heat Advisory” sessions, I started daydreaming quite a bit about what my summers were like as a kid.
Dealing with “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees, I find myself asking, did we even feel heat as children? I do not remember summer ever being too hot for me to enjoy my day. Now, if it’s in the 90s or higher, my body feels as though it’s going to melt. Literally. I vaguely remember sweating as a kid.
But I remember how good it felt to run through a spraying garden hose on a beautiful summer’s day. I remember well how good cold ice cream tasted on a summer’s night. The taste of a chilled Coke in the thick glass bottle was like no other drink in the world. Walking into a store that actually had air conditioning and thinking “WOW”! And to this day, the sound of a simple box fan will put me right to sleep.
I remember well, sitting at the picnic table we had in our front yard, while Mama spread out newspapers so Daddy could slice up an ice-cold watermelon. We each had our own little saltshaker. It was such a treat!
I remember spending most of my summer days playing with my sister in either the cool dirt basement where Mama kept the many jars of home canned goodies, or in the thick woods that surrounded our home. Daddy would always have the woods cleared of weeds and especially poison oak or ivy, so our play time would be a joyous one. He even built us a playground one year beside his organic garden so he could keep an eye on us as he worked. Mama could also see us from her kitchen window as she washed dishes.
Probably my favorite summer memory would have to be when Daddy would take us to the public swimming pool. I can still remember the feel of the wet concrete under my bare feet as we walked through the front gate, and the sound that gate made closing. I knew instantly I was in for a day filled with pure joy and fun that only a child could understand. It didn’t matter that it was hot, or if I got sunburned. The smell of chlorine in the water, and the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion will forever be something I adore. In my mind, I can see Daddy sitting in his car, parked out front, waiting for us to come out when the pool was closing. I remember him asking if we had enjoyed our day and saying how he wished he could have spent the day in that cool water, too. This was the 1960s, when kids could be kids without fear of being abducted or harmed. What a blessing it was for every child at that swimming pool.
It wasn’t all fun and games during the Summer. There was work to be done as well. Helping Mama and Daddy in their sizeable gardens was of utmost importance. Daddy grew organically, and that meant he had to spend a lot of time in the garden. But he loved it and would reap a beautiful bounty. Mama home canned or froze all the vegetables and fruits she could, so it would stock us for the coming winter. Canning was a hot, messy, and exhausting job back then. Especially with no air conditioning in the house. We spent hours tending to the garden, picking the produce, and preparing it to either be canned or frozen. I look back now and realize how hard my parents worked. I wish now I would have strung more beans, shucked more corn, and shelled more peas. I didn’t look forward to the chore as a kid and can see now that I wasn’t much help. I feel bad for that because I sure enjoyed the fruits of Mama and Daddy’s labor!
Daddy always kept our large yard mowed neatly. Oh, to walk barefoot in that cool grass again would be Heavenly. Or to take a nature walk with Mama into the woods. We searched for berries and mushrooms. Mama would dig up a fern from the ones that grew wild on the side of the mountain. She would take it home and plant it in her favorite McCoy pot. Of course, with her green thumb, it grew big and lush.
Like with all good things, Summer would indeed end. But before it did, Mama would take me and my sister shopping for school clothes. We always caught the yearly going back to school sale at J. C. Penney’s. If Mama didn’t have the money to purchase what we needed that day, she would put all or some items on layaway. We would try on so many dresses that Mama would pick out. In the 60s, dresses would be the normal attire for an elementary school aged girl. I would get so excited about the new dresses. Having outgrown all the ones from last year, I couldn’t wait to see what new style Penney’s had for the new year.
Mama would pick out tights, anklets, and knee socks to match each dress she purchased. If we were really lucky, we would go shopping for new school shoes on the same day. I remember always begging for a new purse to match my school wardrobe. Usually, Mama would say no. But I would come home from school a few weeks later and she would surprise me with a new purse or two. My guess is, she caught them on mark down later. I was a blessed little girl.
By the time we went back to school, I think we were all ready for Summer to end and a new season to arrive. I loved school back then and couldn’t wait to ride the school bus again and to see my friends. Of course, by the next Spring, we would all be champing at the bit for another summer vacation. And we would do all our favorite things all over again.
What wonderful memories we made.