Bedtime in summer brought mixed feelings when I was a child. I first saw this artwork by Jesse Wilcox Smith at an antique fair that happens in Brimfield, MA. every year. Entitled “Bed in Summer,” I loved it right away because it brought back memories that had been tucked deeply away. Ahhh…summer. It has always been my favorite season.
April in Boston has been unseasonably warm this year, and my youngest child, Chad (8), had played over a friend’s house on one of the sunny 80 degree days last week. When I picked him up he was thoroughly and happily drunk with exhaustion, covered with pollen and dirt and smelling like sunscreen. All signs of a really good day. At home, I suggested that he take a bath and he was excited at the mere thought. It had been a long time since the last soak in the tub for him, as we have moved on to showers in my family. So I filled up the bath, sprinkled the water with some of Molten Brown‘s muscle soak (a must have), and he plopped himself in. He played for a while, washed his hair, and got all wrinkled up. When he emerged and dried off, put on some comfy cotton clothes, and sat on my bed to watch some TV, I looked at him, and I remembered.
Somewhere in the back of our minds we all carry childhood memories of long summer days that seemed to last forever. There was Park and Recreation in the morning, where I would stare awe-filled at the high school girls teaching arts and crafts, and flirt mercilessly with the boys who led the Capture the Flag games. “Someday, (albeit almost inconceivable to me at the time,) I would be as old as they were, and I would do exactly what they do,” I thought to myself. Sometimes, we would go to the beach for the day, and other days we would just ride around on our bikes and play kickball down at the park if we could get a group together. The kids in my neighborhood would put on plays for our parents after practicing our parts all day long. Unforgettable? Well, that describes the way we screamed at the ice cream truck to stop as if we would never again hear the familiar fairy tale music it played.
The day rambled on until, without fail, my mother or father would ring the bell, signaling the end of the fun. The bell was mounted on the house, right outside the sliding glass doors that led to the deck. I hated that sound, because it meant that I had to go home. My brother, sister, and I would gather up whatever stuff we had with us, and retreat. It was then that I would do the same thing that my own child just did a few days ago…clean up and get ready for bed. If someone could bottle the feeling of refreshment, exhaustion, and happiness that I felt after a long day of play and a nice hot bath, it would most likely be priceless.
We didn’t have air conditioning, and so my windows were kept open as the summer’s eve breeze turned cooler. It was still light outside as the sun would not set until almost 9 o’clock. I remember feeling sorry for myself because I had to go to bed and the sun was still out, but the feeling did not last long. I drifted off to sleep with ease in the safety of my room, with the crickets starting to chirp, and my parents talking quietly in the kitchen with the familiar sound of Ned Martin announcing the play-by-play of the Red Sox game on the radio. If I were really lucky, a few neighbors had stopped over for some adult time, and I could hear their laughter and catch the smell of my father’s cigar. A scent that meant he was relaxing. All was good in my young, small, world. Long days. Great feelings. Remember them? I hope you do.
Here’s to summer, and to making it as memorable for my children as it was for me.