When we kids became overheated from riding bikes, it was time to find a place out of the Sun for a little relief. Frequently, the best place to sit was on the retaining wall in the back yard. The wall was built of wooden planks that were three or more inches thick. It kept the slope from falling onto the driveway and garage immediately next to it.
The only tree on the slope was an old cherry tree that yielded tiny, bitter fruit. The cherries were the kind only children can love. Most of the year, the tree was bare of fruit, but it did provide needed shade.
In June of 1965, my brother Mark and I decided to build a rudimentary go-kart out of lumber scraps and the wheels from our rusty coaster wagon. We didn’t have the proper tools and we had to improvise the mechanicals needed for steering. The summer heat and humidity greatly slowed down our pace. We often just sat on an old sawhorse to diminish the sweating. Mark and I never finished the cart.
Both of us became mesmerized by the dust motes illuminated by the shaft of sunlight filtered through the south-facing garage window. One afternoon, we spent a full hour stirring up dust in order to create the thick clouds for a better light-show. Afterwards, we noticed that grey layers of dust had accumulated on our sweaty skin.
Mom told us to run through the lawn sprinkler because she didn’t want us to dirty up her clean bathroom. Of course, running through the sprinkler is a good way for old grass clippings and dirt to stick to the bottom of feet. They had to be hosed off and dried before we could enter the house.
The main thing to remember about sunny summertime days in our neighborhood was the crushing boredom of not being allowed to spend our days indoors with our hobbies. Thankfully, we could remain indoors on rainy days. Then we spent the hours building and detailing model cars.
Later that summer, I crashed my bicycle and sprained the left ankle. That was the same day the family had planned to attend the State Fair. I managed to disguise the severe pain and tried my best to avoid limping. That turned out to be impossible though. Dad bought a sturdy wooden cane from a booth on the Midway. I hobbled around the fairgrounds like a frail old man.
The next few days were spent on top of the bed or on the living room sofa. It was the perfect excuse to catch up on my reading. One of the books was H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. It was so good that after finishing it, I read it again right away.
These little memories come to mind today on the day before the Summer Solstice.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this passage from naturalist John Burroughs: “In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. Summer is more wooing and seductive, more versatile and human, appeals to the affections and the sentiments, and fosters inquiry and the art impulse.”