Saturday Single No. 199

We are busy today. The Texas Gal and I are in the midst of planning an end-of-summer gathering tomorrow here on the outskirts of town. Folks from our book club, my family, her workplace, my childhood and at least one regular commenter at this blog will gather here to eat barbeque, drink cool beverages, and watch the end of summer approach.

We’ll no doubt share tales of this summer now ripe on its vine and of summers long since bottled in memory’s vineyard. There will be a treasure of experience among us: The ages and circumstances of some of our guests will range from a few couples not that long married through several couples whose children are college-aged or older to at least one guest – my mother – whose children are long grown into middle age. Our youngest guest will be six, the son of one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers. While he may not contribute significantly to the conversation, the rest of us will have many summers to talk about.

As I ponder summertimes gone and the approach of this summer’s ending, I will to some degree remain surprised that I once more live in the same city where I grew up. I went for a bicycle ride last Sunday, riding past my childhood home on Kilian Boulevard, where another young family now lives. I see the house often enough that any changes – externally, anyway; I have been inside the house only once since Mom sold it – are glacial. But from there I rode on up Fifth Avenue toward Lincoln Elementary School and its playground.

The play equipment is different: No longer do kids play on hard metal jungle gyms and swing sets (many of which in the 1960s came from the manufacturing firm owned by Rick and Rob’s father). Playground equipment is made of plastic now, with no sharp edges. Still, the physical configuration of the playground remains the same, and I saw the place where a seven-year-old whiteray was accidently hit in the head with a baseball bat. (The adult whiteray is tempted to thrust tongue firmly in cheek and note that all the trouble stems from that moment.) And I saw where that lump-headed whiteray waited in line to re-enter the school after lunchtime recess.

And, to be more in tune with the summertime tales theme of this piece, I noted, too, the place on the way toward home where at the end of every school year –- the beginning of every summer – the growing whiteray and his classmates would peek inside the envelopes that held their report cards, anxiously making certain that they had succeeded at another year of school and had been promoted to the next grade. With that worry eased – and we did worry, even though I do not remember anyone from any of my elementary classes who was held back a year – the important business of summer could begin.

That business, filling the summer with activity, from the planned busyness of summer school enrichment classes and swimming lessons to the unplanned times of playing baseball in the street or lazing away an afternoon in Rick’s tree house, seemed so vital then, as if we had to cram twenty-six hours of living into the twenty-four hours available for us. When we went somewhere, we wasted no time, heading down the street as fast as our bicycles could take us, with last summers of our youths finding Rick on his purple ten-speed and me on my black Schwinn Typhoon, the same bicycle that carried me back to Lincoln School last weekend.

We did sometimes slow down, taking time to read, to listen to music, to sometimes just lay back and watch the clouds or the empty sky. But we knew that during all those times – during the frantic and quiet moments alike – the summer was passing. Labor Day and the beginning of school waited implacably, and August would wind its way to an ending.

I imagine some of those moments will come to mind tomorrow as we and our guests chat over barbeque and beverages. Rick and Rob will be here, just blocks from the street corners that were the center of our universe during those years. And of course, those folks whose friendships we’ve collected in the years since will have their own tales of summertimes to tell, and that’s good, whether those tales come from summers long gone or from this one that we’ll be celebrating tomorrow. We all have summertime tales. And to go along with them, here’s Gordon Lightfoot’s “Summertime Dream,” today’s Saturday Single:


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