Gratitude Friday 7/9/21 – Long Summer Days
“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
Truth be told, I am not a summer person. One of the things I like best about summer is that it precedes the Fall, which is my favorite season. Crisp weather, bursts of color, the harvest, Halloween and everything that comes with it, other than things that are pumpkin spiced, I don’t get that, but I digress here. Summer in my early years was a huge span of time. As school ended the summer loomed ahead like an uncharted vast territory of time. A day lasted so very long, and a month then feels like a year now. As I grow older, I am more fully appreciating what my elders said about how short life is and making sure that time is spent wisely. Time picks up speed on the way down. Today is a gift.
Looking back over the decades, summer nights in our home on Highland Avenue in Bethlehem PA the early 1970s was the most idyllic time of my life. I have lots of fond memories of those years. Days were spent on my bicycle exploring the vast reaches of west Bethlehem. Perhaps even journeying down to Pulley’s Five and Dime at five points next to the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Broad Street for some penny fish or to see the amazing Halloween masks they had. When we had no money, Mr. Pulley would occasionally let us sweep the floor or some other small task in exchange for a handful of candy. We would go out in the yard at night and catch fireflies in jars. They were so plentiful in the twilight hours. They flashed as they would rise up out of the grass after sunset on those cool summer nights.
Our family would pile in the station wagon most weekends and go to the YMCA family center in Point Phillips. It was a pool shaped like Friendship 7 with playgrounds and pavilions and a stream to explore for crayfish. We even went during the 73 gas shortage, although I wonder how the gas rationing factored into the calculation in filling up the tank of the family Oldsmobile wagon. It probably got around 12 miles to the gallon. I remember often how thunderstorms would roll through and the smell of wet concrete by that pool. Or waiting forever after we finished grilling dinner because we were told (falsely) that if you went swimming after you ate, your stomach would cramp up and you would sink to the bottom and drown. So many summer memories in that place.
To my young self, they seemed like simple and near perfect times. As an adult looking back, I can see the economic and social disruption that was happening in this era and realize that the adults most have gone to great lengths to provide us that sense of security in those preteen years. It is true however that they were simpler times. Three channels on the TV, phones with cords and no 24/7 news most likely insulated us from some of our world events, which when we would learn about through newspapers or the single hour of nightly news provided a more unified perspective on what was occurring and why it was occurring. It was a time when we had a common set of facts on which there were varying perspectives on. That does seem quaint now.
Summer is the zenith of the year; things are growing, and the world is full of life and possibility. Fall and harvest and preparation for winter is just around the corner. Summers go by in a flash now, but the smell of wet concrete after a summer day thunderstorm takes me back to simpler times. I am grateful for these memories and those times with family. When I stop and think, this current era includes experiences I know that I will look back on a decade or so from now wistfully and with no small measure of nostalgia.
This summer, we are relishing opportunities to get back out into the world. We had an amazing dinner with friends over the weekend and had the kinds of long conversation that feels a whole lot more meaningful over a dining room table than it does on a zoom call. Such experiences of this year seemed impossible in 2020, but are returning now, albeit on a small scale. I am sure we will recall those experiences or going out to dinner and a movie after the long plague siege of isolation began to lift with fondness.
We live in tumultuous times. Adult history when we look back will probably focus on all of the division, strife, social unrest, and everything that seems wrong with our world at this moment in time. But it is also true that kids are catching fireflies and toasting their first marshmallow at summer camp. I work hard at trying to keep that child’s eye alive in me – that capacity to see the world as new and filled with wonder and possibility. I am grateful for these memories and the moments in our current time in which I experience that wonder of life. A new trail or a new road, a new friend or even a good summer thunderstorm. I am grateful for such experiences, then and now.
What are you grateful for today?