Friday, February 5, 2010
Searching for Summer
This winter, visions of summer are seeping through the cells of my brain. Collecting bits of mind media that contain drops of lake water, sweat, and iced tea swim through my veins while I stare at my lonely snow shovel.
"Searching for Summer." A ripped off title. Stole it. Took it from a great writer by the name of Jim Shahin.
If any of you have ever flown American Airlines in the last twenty years - you may have run across Jim's writing. Many a time, I climbed aboard awaiting a fresh copy of American Way magazine to quickly thumb through to find his monthly slice of life story. In a Ray Romano meets Garrison Keillor sort of way, Jim is a great observer and storyteller.
I have a short bookshelf next to my bed. This morning I grabbed an old notebook with lyrics in it to see if any great ideas needed to be finished. The bookmark inside was a torn out page from American Way. "Searching for Summer" by Jim Shahin.
Not so different from my "Can you taste Summertime?" poem. The longing for simple pleasures. Summertime pleasures. But Jim's ideal summer pleasures don't come from playing church softball or skinny dippin' or bike riding. But the lazy sort. The basking. The languishing state of torpor, as he quips from a Faulkner novel.
Ah-h-h, the beauty he reveals in boredom. Hammocks, back porches and blankets in the backyard. Where did all that go? Well, Jim claims that summer went to camp.
Personally, I think summer has gone digital.
What I really want to talk about is a slice of summer, possibly from 1970. Which wasn't that different from '69 or '71, or even 1972. Jim's affinity for the boredom of yesteryear took me back to the days when my best friend Noel and I lived large on nothing. I know times change, but values don't. The values that come from being lower middle-class and growing up in rural North Carolina were probably invaluable.
I have three boys. I can guarantee that they have never spent the day collecting thumb length crawdads to sell to the local bait shop so they could buy a grape Nehi and a pack-a-nabs. To split.
I love video games, but twenty years from now I won't remember a scene in Halo as vividly as I do the far gone days spent at Old Man Parson's Used Bike Shop longing for a banana seat and some chopper forks. Sure - I can go on missions to Vietnam in a terabyte second, but I can't take my Bandaided toes down a hot, sandy tobacco barn road ever again. Well, not as a lazy and free 11 year old. When each summer day is a magical boring nugget.
One thing about my kids though - when they were younger, I used to tell them "stories from mouth" after reading one from a book before bed. They requested stories about my and Noel's adventures. Perhaps we seemed like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Huck who? Right.
If I ramble on about this long enough I won't have to feel sorry for Mr. Shovel, but I shall close with run-on sentences about the summer of 1970.
Cut-off shorts atop our tighty whities. N'er a stitch more. Two beat up 20-inch bikes, two buzzed-headed barefooted boys. Streams of sweat streaking their way down our dirty faces. Codenames for the ones we loathed who yelled at us for cutting through their backyards and "ruining the grass." What was grass for if it won't fer runnin' through?
Mowing lawns for three bucks so we could afford to go to the skatin' rink on Saturday. Green feet. More Bandaids. Dirty rings around our necks and dust in our ears. Grins on our faces.
I recall one of those adventurous days concluding with a dappled sunset shining through the sycamore trees with Noel and me swinging on a rusty old swingset. The legs coming up out of the ground as we'd reach for that sun with our chins. We were singing a song we learned in church, "Jesus, is Coming Soon." Noel answering with the harmonies his mama taught him. "Trumpets will surely sound!"
And they still do when I search for summer in my darkest days and stress-cluttered mind.
Every kid should have a best friend and every adult, a simple boring summer memory.
What is yours?