Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summertime and the living was easy...

I have been thinking a lot lately about Summers when I was a kid. They were long hot stretches of time filled with camping, playing in the park, fishing, bike riding and laying in front of fans. Starting in the early morning hours of each day, the house would be buttoned up tight. All curtains and shutters would be closed to the hot Eastern Oregon sun and all box and rotating fans would be placed on high trying to keep as much nighttime coolness in the house for as long as possible. I remember sweating while inside, but I have no memories of being all that uncomfortable while playing outside. My brother Craig and I were building forts or cities for our match box cars so we obviously had other things to think about rather then how hot it was.
Every evening my dad would play out the same ritual. He would periodically go outside to check the temperature. We didn't have a thermometer, he went purely by the feel of the evening air on his skin to test whether or not it was cooler outside than inside the house. If he deemed it to be so, we would run around the house throwing open all windows to get that cooler air moving through the house. I can remember going to bed some nights with it still feeling so hot that I couldn't even stand to sleep with a sheet over me and I have always hated not having at least something covering me, even if it is only a thin sheet. To me that's just as bad as wearing socks to bed, I just don't like it.
At the start of Summer, Craig and I would go out to the metal shed and retrieve a fan or two for our own use. We would wipe them down and turn them on to test them. Sometimes the fan would not work. The motor would hum as if trying to move the blades but nothing would happen. If it didn't pass muster then it was off to the trash. You can see one of the fans in the above picture. I hated that bikini by the way, I was always so embarrassed to wear it. I didn't like how it showed off my tummy. I am amazed that I allowed a picture to be taken of me.

Camping was what we did as a family for vacations. I have vivid memories of camping under the stars, using a black solar shower hanging from a tree that never got the water hot, trekking through the woods finding ant hills and chunks of mica. I can still remember the smell of the old green tent. It had a pleasant mustiness mixed with the pine smell of the trees it was pitched under. I can still feel the scratchiness of the old green lawn chairs. The webbing would poke and prick me as I sat in them and they would open and close with a hollow metallic clank the still resounds in my ears.
My parents were truly the gourmets of camping cooking. There were no hot dogs and chips on our menus. They were of the mindset that anything you could make at home could be made camping and they pulled it off. With a Coleman grill and oven we ate like kings. I can still remember church camp outs where all of the other kids would be done eating and we would still be waiting for the corn bread or the pineapple upside down cake to be finished. The wait was always worth it even though we were itching to get back to our friends and whatever game we had been playing. I remember The Minister's Cat was all the rage one Summer on the banks of the North Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. We would circle around the campfire and gleefully go through the entire alphabet trying to come up with qualifying words quickly. What fun we had. There is a delightful rendition of this game in the movie musical Scrooge.
Which is the best version, hands down, ever of that story. Anyway, I digress...
I can only hope that my own babies will have such fond memories of their Summers. Church Camp, which always terrified me, I even would cry on the bus (yes, I was one of those kids), but, once I got there I loved it. Miracle Heights Camp in McCall (I think), Idaho...such fun. Summers were also for laying about reading. I would lay on my bed for hours and hours demolishing a stack of books and then I would read late into the wee hours of the morning. Little Women, The Scarlett Pimpernel, The Song of Ruth...so many good ones. Oh, I hope to instill a love of reading in my kids. If that's all we did for three months, but lay around and read with brief stints of camping, running, and play in between then I would be in heaven...but, that's just me.

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