In childhood, it was always summer. I spent the long hot months at my grandma's house, waking up every morning to the sound of water hitting the outer walls of the cottage, as she hosed everything down against the heat of the day.
Summer was lying in the hammock under the weeping willow. It was bathing suits on the line that never got fully dry before the next swim. It was lake-scent and rippling waves, and you were lucky if you were the child who found a log to bob in the waves when the motorboats passed by, the other kids waiting their turn enviously. It was the smell of sagebrush and Ponderosa pine, sweet pea and apple blossoms. It was grandpa driving us out into the country through miles and miles of apple orchards. When relatives from the prairies visited, it was taking them to a friend's orchard, so they could experience the pleasure of picking their own apple right off the tree. Apples since have never tasted so good.
Summer was reading, and my grandma saying, "you always have your nose in a book. You need to get outside in the sunshine and get some fresh air." But it was hot out there and there wasnt anything to do that equaled the pleasure of those long hours of reading.
It was the ice cream truck's tinkling music coming down Christleton Avenue, and grandpa smiling gruffly and giving me a shiny dime. It was the truck spraying DDT to kill mosquitoes, me swinging innocently on the gate under the rose arbour because we didnt know then how dangerous chemicals were.
Summer evenings were scented with lilac, or peony. Hollyhocks stood tall along the spot where grandpa parked his white and brown Ford. When the Regatta was on, it was long days sitting in the bleachers, watching men dive from Atkins tower. In the evening, it was the Lady of the Lake pageant, and an entertaining line-up of performers. The stage was across the pool in which synchronized swimmers in rubber bathing caps executed coordinated moves, glamourous to a freckle-faced eleven year old, all knees and elbows and straggly hair.
Summer was when the aunts and uncles and cousins came to visit, when cousinTeddy and I both wanted to sit in the Big Brown Chair; one time I got there first and Teddy stood at the door looking out, saying "Come and look! there's a little brown bunny!" and of course I fell for it; he leaped into the chair and said I was the silly little bunny who gave up her seat in the chair.
When the family gathered there was lots of cackling laughter among the women, my grandma's the loudest of all. (I inherited her cackle, and her sense of humour.) We would go for picnics out Mission Creek. One time the husky, Mickey, rolled in something ghastly, and we rode home holding our noses. Another time cousin Jeanette got stung by a bee and burst into tears. She was older, and impossibly glamorous, turning boys' heads when we went downtown together. She would smile a knowing smile, as I galumphed along in my rubber boots knowing I would never be that cool.
There is a certain smell summer mornings have, especially at my sister's farm, that takes me right back to those days, before I began to blossom, when all of life and those impossibly shiny dreams were up ahead, just waiting, and thankfully I didn't anticipate the pain. Summer days when I learned to laugh, and to sing, gifts that would get me through the hard years of my growing up and finding my way.