Monday, May 19, 2008

Roll Out Those Lazy Days...

Art by
William-Adolphe Bouguereau

What did you do in the summertime? I read. Mom didn't have a car, so there was no place to go. When I was ten I took piano lessons from a lady that lived across the street, and we walked to a neighborhood swimming pool most days, but my most memorable summer excursion was riding my bike to the library every week.

The Nancy Drew shelf was the first one I checked. Those books were very popular, so it was a major coup to find one available, especially one I hadn't read. I also liked the Little Maid books. They were about girls who lived in exotic places in the olden days (Little Maid of Old Quebec, Little Maid of Old Virginia, etc.) Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary was my first romance novel. He kissed her on the last page when he asked her to go steady. (I read that page over and over, and checked the book out again later in the season.)

I remember a lot of books about nurses. There was one called Candystriper that inspired daydreams of delivering flowers to handsome guys with broken legs. (I later found out there was more to it than wearing the cute pinafore.) Another favorite was Student Nurse. She fell for the student doctor and I think there was a kissing scene on the last page of that one, too.

The summer between 5th and 6th grade was my biography phase. I read about Helen Keller, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Edison and Louis Pasteur. Everything I know about those people came from a series put out by Weekly Reader.

Days back then were long and hot. I moved with the sun. After I'd done my work and my practicing, I went outside and laid on the patio swing to read. Later I meandered over to the side yard, where I laid flat on my back and smelled lilacs, and occasionally watched the white smoke of a jet plane high above my pages.

We didn't have air conditioning so the house was hot and it was uncomfortable to be inside. Besides that, if my mom saw me hanging around she'd have me iron the pillowcases or glue in the green stamps. Before our basement was finished there was a mattress downstairs, and that was where I spent the afternoons. A bottle of homemade root beer and a library book were my idea of a good time.

In between chapters I went over to Karen's where we sat on her patio and played Go Fish and Old Maid. Her mom had a bridge club, which seemed terribly sophisticated. On bridge days the living room was gated off and we peeked in at the card tables all set with coasters and nut cups. She taught us to play Gin Rummy and I felt so mature keeping score and knowing the difference between a club and a spade.

Karen had to weed their giant garden every day, so when she got started on that chore I went to Veda Ann's where we watched Queen for a Day and American Bandstand. They had a picnic table under their carport, and Tommy and Raymond came around for a game of spaceship. We played like we were two sets of twins named Terry and Jerry, and Tammy and Pammy. (I was Tammy.)

Moms were everywhere watching out for us, but they didn't entertain us. They provided meals and the occasional band-aid. We were expected to "go out and play." Eventually we'd hear mothers calling their kids home for dinner. Dad came home and cooked something on the barbecue, and we'd have corn-on-the-cob, peaches and watermelon. After baths we got to play outside in our pajamas until it got dark. I usually ended up where I'd started, on the patio swing with a book.

During my childhood I never played on a team, I never went to camp (although I once went to an arts-and-crafts day where I learned to boondoggle) and I never went anywhere to learn to work with other kids. I had siblings and neighbor kids for that. There were some kids who had tennis coaches and golf lessons, art tutors and sleep-away camps, but I didn't know them. For the kids in my neighborhood, summer days seemed lazy, but they weren't wasted. I wouldn't trade what I learned in the library and between the households of my suburban neighbors for horseback lessons or debutante classes. I didn't take lessons on how to live. Summertime is when that knowledge settled on me like a sun tan. I watched, absorbed and read. It was the best summer school I could have attended!







15 comments:

Keri(th) said...

One of the things I loved about all those Presidency meetings was knowing that if we were fortunate enough, you would share a memory or life experience with us. You are truly a remarkable woman who has influenced my life for the better! I love your blog... it allows me to pause and reflect upon my own life and childhood. Plus, you're hilarious fun and I love to laugh. I miss the good ol' days when the elevator stopped at 7th heaven!

gab said...

Aaaaaahhhhh...will you recreate that summer magic while we're at your house this summer?!

Christie said...

I enjoy that you left your friend who had to do the garden weeding to go play at another friend's. You are my kind of girl.

SydneyMin said...

Your writing inspires me to look back at my own lazy days of childhood - though I don't know how long it will take me to remember so many details! What you are writing is a treasure for you and your entire posterity :)

Polly said...

Summer days are always magical to remember. Mine were over on Melodie Ann and Renee G's Nancy Drew collection was my library along with Trixie Beldon. The Evergreen Swimming pool and Grampa'a L's orchard and grampa B's huge garden with bargeques and singing and laying around in the sun and playing kick the can in the gully with the hole neighborhood and watching softball. lovely days.

kenju said...

My mom had a car, and I did go to summer camp for 2 weeks each summer, but your life and mine are fairly parallel. I was a book reader too, and we went to the library once a week to stock up.

My daughter was a candystriper for exactly one day. The day she started, an irate husband came into the hospital and killed his wife (a nurse) with a gun. My girl wouldn't go back! LOL

Sheri said...

Great post. It really takes me back to my summers--always outside trying to stay cool. Unfortunately, I wasn't a reader like you. All your reading has really paid off.

During my childhood summers, we built tree houses, sewed doll clothes in the shade, ran through the sprinklers, ate a lot of popsicles, etc. Nothing like the micro-managed kids of today.

Thanks for the memories. I need to read Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" again.

Holly said...

Awesome post. It reminds me so much of my childhood!

I would climb our tree and hide in the leaves and read. I read all the Nancy Drews, the Bobbsey Twins, the Pam and Penny books. Beverly Cleary's "Fifteen" was one of the first "older" books I read! I checked that book out of the library a lot.

We never played on organized sports teams or went to summer classes either, but we were always running and biking around our little town. When I look back on it, I realize we would be gone all day. I wonder now if my mom knew where we were or worried about us. I have to know where my kids are at all times.

Thanks for such a great post.

KJ said...

had a collection of Nancy Drew books, was a candystriper. Remember thinking Beverly Cleary books were very grown up when I was 10. Read non-stop all summer long, between laps around the cul-de-sac on my hot pink bike with sparkly banana seat. Books from garage sales, the library, or gifts on my June birthday.

Ingrid said...

Being outside after a bath in my PJ's. What a wonderful memory. Thanks for reminding me.

MissKris said...

I think some of the nurse books you were talking about are the "Sue Barton" books?? Did you read Cherry Ames and Trixie Belden? My all-time favorite 'young girl' books were the "Betsy, Tacy, and Tib" books by Maud Hart Lovelace. I read all the time in the summer, too. Small town. Library nearby. Besides Nancy Drew I loved the Hardy Boy Mysteries. I went thru the biography stage around the same time you did. "Fifteen" was my first romance novel, too. Did you know Beverly Cleary was from Portland? Henry Huggins lived on Klickitat Street, and one of Dear Hubby's aunts lived on an avenue between Klickitat Street and another one...that always tickled my funnybone! Oh, I could go on and on, too. I wrote an entry about all my best-loved books a long time ago on my first blog...I couldn't believe the response! It sure opens up a lot of wonderful memories, doesn't it?

i'm kelly said...

when i was a kid my mom used to make us read for 10 minutes a day - i used to HATE it. that was until i discovered nancy drew. together we solved crimes & she opened up an entirely new world for me.

diane said...

Hey soul sister, I have the same summer memories. Did you read Eleanor Estes books too? Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Bobbsie Twins were my best friends. We rode our bikes all over town and didn't go in til dinner then back outside for night games. Fun memories!

mama jo said...

my memories are on melodie ann also...riding my bike around the neighborhood, later on to evergreen swimming pool...playing kick the can at night, playing in the tarzan tree, laying out in the yard, sleeping outside, toilet papering, picking raspberries at grandmas and dad bringing home peach pies...yum!!

Connie said...

The green stamps! The green stamps were gold. Going to the green stamp store with my mom was a regular part of my childhood. Their were nine children in the family, so our groceries filled up lots of books. The kids helped, and I think we licked them! I remember the rubber bands around the books. What did she get with the stamps? I have no clue. Gotta go call my sister and see if she remembers. Enjoyed this wonderul post.