As summer rolls to a close and I’m starting to think warm and cozy thoughts about sweaters and mohair throws on the chesterfield, I also started thinking about how summer feels different in this fourth quarter of my life.
When I was a kid, summer was all about the cottage, swimming and playing Red Rover on the beach. It was about riding bikes down the winding gravel road to McKenzie’s for an ice cream cone (and a couple of hours’ peace and quiet for my mother). It was about fishing on the weekends with my father so that we could have fresh-caught bass, fried in butter, served with hash browns and scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and about a loaf of bread, toasted and slathered in peanut butter. It was about catching frogs and trying to catch lightning bugs. It was about lazy hot afternoons lying in the shade of the birch tree reading “A Boys Own” that once belonged to my father. It was about endless games of “May I” and Sorry, and trying to avoid playing Monopoly with my capitalist brothers. It was about finding a snake in my underwear drawer, a bat in our sleeping cabin, and the dog discovering skunks are not great playmates. It was about roasting wienies and marshmallows until burnt and then promptly burning the roof of your mouth, on each one! It was about being blissful, even if you didn’t know what bliss was then.
I didn’t really have a summer last year, or not much of one any way, so I had looked forward to this one quite a bit. In many ways, it didn’t disappoint – we spent several weekends at the lake and to my joy, Jeff caught a very large bass which we shared with family for breakfast one morning. And I did the summer things I used to do with my mother – strawberry jam in June, pickles in August, with mustard relish and chili sauce to come this week. But it all felt… different.
For one thing, there’s the matter of “other things to do”. We had to re-arrange schedules a little bit for one weekend visit. Nieces and nephews are busy with jobs and not at the lake all the time. Nor are my two brothers and sisters-in-law, and even my aunt & uncle have moved into ‘town’ from the lakeside.
For another, instead of the utter peace and calm of almost every day and evening of my childhood – other than the noise of children playing and fighting and doing other non-mechanized childish things – our summer visits this year were filled with noises of motors and fireworks and raucous, drunken laughter into the early morning hours.
I’m not turning into a cantankerous old lady (I hope!) when I say this but there is much to be cherished about the unfrenzied, unplanned, mostly unplugged summers of my childhood. I think it’s rather sad to see today that there are so few long, lazy days of summer for children. Or adults for that matter. I think we would all do well out of having many more long bike rides down winding gravel roads for maple walnut ice cream cones, putting a few fireflies in a jar, roasting a few marshmallows on pointy sticks around a small bonfire, watching the sun set.
We could all do with a little more bliss.