Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summertime Memories

Being in Washington D.C. brought back some odd memories that I had filed away in some dusty portion of my brain where the cells go to die from lack of use and poor recall - the fireflies were what did it - I remember those long runs with my stepdad in the dusk, it was just too hot to run during the day, and when he was home, we always went for a run together - just quiet runs. It was a new neighborhood in Virginia Beach, and only half of the subdivision road around the lake was completely paved, we would run in the limestone road cover, and through the dust, guided along by the fireflies who blinked in the scrub surrounding the sides of the trail. It was a new experience for me, those summers - it was only the second time I had ever been out of Florida - I went to New Orleans when I was two, but that is just a fabricated quilt of memories that have been planted there by stories and photographs - I remember my first real summer trip - we left Florida, and we broke my stepdads watch taking a short cut through the minigolf at the camping ground - we drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains pulling a 1950 pop up trailer that was a beautiful lime green, and was patched with used blue jeans worn out by my numerous step aunts and uncles - we camped in Georgia, went to my first major league baseball game, caught my first fish, had my first camp fire, we drove through more states than I knew existed - I read about them, I knew the names of them, but to me, they were nothing more than questions on a geography test in school - that year we went from Florida to Michigan, and camped on the shores of the lake, and eventually settled down in South Philadelphia. A long way from home for a little redneck southern kid who sat on the bus every morning with his grandmother (who owned ten school buses) and spent Sunday afternoons at the church potluck.

Now, my children have officially spent their first day at home since summer has started, and I kind of feel sad about the way the world has changed - before my stepdad, we were working poor - a two bedroom apartment, one piece of shit car, hand me down clothes, and more religion than you can speak of, but it was good. I remember getting up early, putting on a pair of cut off shorts, and trying to be the first one out to get to the bike (there were three boys and one bike, and the one who got up earliest, got the bike) - there was a fountain in the middle of our apartment complex that had long since been emptied by a crack like a scar through the middle - and that's where all of us little whitetrash kids, and little black children, and the one chinese kid would spend our summers - inside the fountain playing with matchbox cars, stickball, looking for lizard eggs, herding ants, and occassionally scoring the fireworks to blow up army men. It was a new world - and one my kids have never experienced - we played with sticks - I mean literally, we would use sticks for everything - they were swords, they were tee-pee supports, they were machine guns, and staffs to use for our adventurous hikes through the old pro shop (it burned the next summer - most assuredly from one of the many kids playing with matches and sifting through the dirty magazines that were left there by the older kids). I remember running away from my dad's plumbing truck - that's what we were supposed to do because mom said we would go to jail and only after we had a suitable spanking. We did not know any better - that's the way we lived. There was no time out, no conversation, no discussion - if you embarrassed, cursed, spoke out of turn, talked back, or did not listen - you got spanked - and you knew what a spanking was. I remember vacation bible school and church camp - the swimming pool was the shape of a cross, and the water was never blue - it was always green - but the preacher figured that god was handling cleaning the water (I suppose)...it was hot, and I can remember being sticky and the three boys laying on the floor with nothing but a sheet and a cheap Pic-N-Save box fan blowing cool damp summer night air over us - those are the memories that I have of my early summers - not too many baseball games, never an amusement park, no skills camps, no tutoring in french, not much of nothing but hot Florida sun, and dust, and simple childhood.

This summer has been a dream - twenty days in, and I have already had the chance to go to a baseball game, sit in the sun on the Puget Sound and fall asleep to the sound of seaplanes, walk through the Arlington Cemetary with my son to witness the changing of the guard, see the sun come up at six am and watch it go down at ten, taste the cool rain of a late Florida afternoon, feel the sun of a mild Northwestern sunny day...that's more than I ever did in ten years of summers-

One day home, and I, like my kids, know that it is summer, and am ready to go again, to find some empty fountain, play with some sticks, and just kick up some dust until the sun goes down.

No comments: