Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In the Summertime

First of all, I'm the featured writer today at Indie Ink! Huzzah!!!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Juliska néni, Me, Little Brother John

I remember that, as a child, summers seemed to stretch on forever. They were mostly sunny days that began with my mother throwing us out of the house. Mrs. Black was not one to allow a summer day to be wasted indoors. More often than not, we were kicked out with our swimsuits on and sent to the neighborhood swimming pool. We would play and splash and swim all day, wait through the endless "adult only swim" time-outs, and come home hours later, chlorine-scented, just in time for dinner.

It's a little ironic that my mother was afraid of water and never learned to swim, but that she loved that pool as much as we did. It saved her sanity during the months that she couldn't shuttle us off to school.

I have a favorite summer moment in time. I have no idea when it was, except that I was young. Maybe seven or eight at the most. My Dad had taken us up to the pool after dinner. This was a rarity, but it was a hot, sultry night by Michigan standards. We came back when it started to get dark. It was still hot and we sat at the picnic table in our swimsuits, damp towels wrapped around our waists. Mom gave us big, juicy slices of watermelon to eat. Dad finished his first and lit up a smoke. I remember watching his hands in the deepening twilight, impossibly big to my young eyes, one resting on the picnic table, the other bringing the cigarette back and forth to his mouth.

They were hands that could do anything. They made artwork appear, and changed light bulbs that were out of reach of anyone else, and they could fix things that were broken. And it wasn't just me in awe of my dad's hands. Many years later, at the very same picnic table, I sat with my dad and my nephew on a warm Spring day. My nephew was maybe four at the most. He was sitting next to my dad and gently tapping on Dad's wedding ring. He looked up and said, "Grampa... you got biiiig fwangers!" Dad roared with laughter.

When someone says the word summer, this is what comes back to me if I close my eyes, the scent of watermelon, chlorine, and cigarette smoke on warm, muggy air. The sound of crickets punctuated by my father exhaling smoke through his nose. It is the stillness of a moment of perfect childhood joy, a moment that was safe from everything else.

And I still love the scent of cigarette smoke on Summer air.


  1. Amazing, Barb. This actually reminded me of my grandfather, except in his case it was pipe smoke. He smoked either Captain Black or cherry cavendish, and I can still detect it a mile away. Ah, memories. Thanks.

  2. This is writing at its best. I felt like I was there feeling and seeing everything exactly as you so lovingly remember. What beautiful descriptions!!!

    I love the part about the hands. I always notice hands, particularly strong, capable ones. They have always made me feel safe, too.


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