Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Summer Memories

By Kenju

I love recalling my favorite summer memories; evoking warm and wonderful feelings of times spent in nature, solitary and carefree.

As a youngster, summers were spent riding my bike, playing tag, hide-and-seek, and all the other games that kids play. Catching lightning bugs was a favorite pasttime; I loved going out at night after dinner and feeling the warm breezes on my skin, while running through the yards with a mason jar looking for bugs. Since there was no TV yet, we spent a lot of time in a porch swing, talking about the day, remembering the past, and discussing family issues. It was in that swing, at age 6 I learned that I was adopted , "chosen" as they called it. It was where I heard that my favorite uncle was going into the Navy and from that swing, we heard the neighbors fights, other mother's admonitions to wayward children and the sounds of piano practice.

At age eight, we moved, and summers were spent mostly in the woods around our new home, near a recreation site for the families of Union Carbide employees. We were the last house on the street, surrounded by woods and animals and wildflowers. I loved nothing better than going into those woods day after day, seeking new critters, bugs, flowers, seed pods, creeks and rocks to look under. My mom was so paranoid about most things, that I still cannot fathom why she was so agreeable to seeing me (at ages 8-11) go off into the woods every day. I was warned to run home if I smelled watermelon; it is supposed to be the predominate smell when there is a copperhead snake nearby. I saw many a copperhead while growing up, but none on my jaunts into the woods. The smells of deep woods; leaf mold, clear water creeks and wildflowers haunts me even now. I can still conjure it at will. I found many crayfish, fishing worms, crickets, tadpoles, frogs and the like - and they all made it home with me at one time or another.

I also picked up a few ticks along the way, but they were removed with no ill effects when I got home. One year a group of teenagers decided to dam up the small creek nearby, to create a swimming hole. I helped them locate and carry rocks for the dam, and they barely tolerated my presence, except for the help I was so willing to give. Eventually they created a swimming hole of about 4 feet deep, enough to float in, if not really swim. It was cool, clear running water and good for the soul. I spent many an hour there, surrounded by tall trees and dappled shade. I was once in a seminar, in which the leader asked us to get still and "go back to your favorite quiet place". I knew immediately where I would go and with the snap of a finger - I was back in those woods, with only the trees and breeze for company.

In my area, we had a huge swimming pool complex that had been built into the side of an old rock quarry. Virtually everyone went there on weekends, as it was one of the few public pools around in those days. They had the big main pool, baby pools, a games area and a dance floor, and they always played the current popular songs for our "dancing pleasure". And dance we did; as the sun burned brightly and tanning or swimming became boring, we piled onto the dance floor like sardines in a can. It was heaven. If your current boyfriend was not in attendance that weekend, there were always scores of others waiting in the wings. And don't get me started about life guards; they of the bronzed bodies and rippling biceps. It was every 15 year old's dream, even if the guards were far too old for us.

During the week, my girlfriend and I would walk about a mile every day to the local dairy store to have a Coke and an order of fries. We told our mothers that the reason for this daily foray was our friendship, but we were not completely truthful. The route we walked was guaranteed to take us by the homes of some boys whose attention we coveted, and some days we were rewarded with a wave and a hello or maybe conversation, if we were very lucky. I don't know if they ever realized our motives, but we were so obvious I don't know how they couldn't have.

Summers in later years were not as idyllic, since I had to work and save money for college. Those were good experiences too, of course, but the best summers were spent in nature, sitting on a rock or turning it over to see what was underneath.