Back in my eighties childhood in northeastern Ohio, my summer consisted of bike rides to our neighborhood pool with my towel draped around my neck. I’d drink orange pop through a bitten-off Twizzler, the original biodegradable, environmentally-friendly straw, and eat sugary Jell-o packets straight out of the box. My friends and I would practice our flips off the side of the pool over and over, then cock our heads and hop up and down to shake the water out of our ears.
Sometimes to mix it up I’d pack a bag with Band-Aids, pretzel rods, and Chapstick, all the essential survival tools, and head out into the woods to play on the railroad tracks and slip and slide through the creek. At night I’d catch fireflies then race home in time to watch the Mission Impossible TV show because there was no DVR and you had to catch it when it aired or beg your friends to give you a blow by blow of what happened.
There were no cell phones so if I needed to reach Mom I’d borrow the landline in the pool office or when I was in the woods, Mom would ring a bell for dinner time and we’d come tromping home, muddy and covered in mosquito bites. As I got older and wanted to push curfew, I twisted my wristwatch back ten minutes to account for being late, which worked about once because my mom is a smart woman.
Summer felt forever, with ice cream on the back deck and reading Nancy Drews in the tree house that Dad and Granddaddy built between the maple trees. We wore jams for shorts and jellies on our feet and rode dirt bikes through the gullies next to our house.
People talk a lot about how times have changed but in some ways they haven’t. Sure, my kids watch shows they DVRed and when I need them I text instead of ring a bell, but we have fireflies and dragonflies and nights in the cul de sac slapping mosquitos. They ride bikes to the pool with their towels blowing like scarves around their necks and their friends grab popsicles from our garage fridge when they stop by.
Summer is hotter down here in Georgia where I live now, without the nighttime breeze off Lake Erie, but in spite of the heat, I find myself smiling more often than not, my kids coming and going, running in for fistfuls of lunchmeat and grapes. We spend nights at the pool eating sandwiches off paper plates and playing cards and drinking beer with the neighbors while our kids chase each other in the deep end and try to knock each other off floats.
Summer still feels blissfully like forever. But it isn’t.
Two of my three kids are bigger than me now. Our remaining summers together grow shorter. I wish for a tightening at the edges of time, as if I could cinch up summer like a drawstring and hold it a little tighter. Just a little more time. Just a few more swim meets. Just a handful of fire pit smores in the driveway. I walk around the house hanging up wet swimsuits left on the floor and I’m not so mad about it anymore. I want these bathing suit bodies in my house a little longer. I want to buy bugspray and sunscreen in bulk. Just a few more years of goggles and popsicles. It’s slipping by.
In the fall my oldest goes to high school and my middle goes to middle school and my youngest isn’t so young anymore in upper elementary. In the fall, class schedules and lockers and a driving permit awaits, but right now we have summer, when it’s great to be a kid for a little while longer.
Photo by Lottie Caiella.