Sweet summer memories trump news

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Twenty-four years ago, when On My Mind was “born,” I promised myself I would try very hard to not dwell on the past in what I wrote because the present and the future are usually much more interesting.

But in these troubled times, both the present and the future are almost too scary to be interesting much less to contemplate. Perhaps we should take a comforting look at the past to reassure ourselves that we have survived troubled times before — and as children we didn’t know they were troubled. (Mother always insisted we used the “editorial we” instead of the egotistical “I”)

Let’s look at the early ’30s — yes, I am that old!. Today’s meteorologists tell us the summer temperatures were at least 100. We didn’t know that either — we just knew it was hot and were thankful for the creek — pronounced “crick” — at the end of the yard.

We jumped in very early in the morning, making sure we had our salt shakers with us. There were ravenous leeches that hoped to attach themselves to our toes, but one shake of salt made them fall off.

Summer was fun then. Longer. Friendlier. There was no hurry, except at mealtime.

Days gone by

It was trying to tune out the morning chatter of the bats as they returned from their night’s foraging to roost behind the shutters.

It was going barefoot through the still dew-wet grass, leaving a silver trail behind. It was weeping at the tiny naked just-born bunnies that something — dog, raccoon, cat? — had dug from their nest. We would bury them and fashion a cross from willow branches, being careful to stay away from the spot on the creek bank where a large snake often sunned itself.

It was bathing our dog in the creek with Fels Naptha soap and being careful not to slip on the moss-covered flat rocks.

It was using the purple and yellow blossoms of iris, soaked in creek water, to make dye for our doll clothes, and should it happen to rain it was fun to make “houses’” for our paper dolls by folding magazine pages in half lengthwise.

Excitement

It was hoping for the fire siren to go off so we could jump on our bikes to follow the truck. The day the nearby Morrison house caught fire we were just back to school and classes were dismissed so we could watch.

It was waiting for our dad to come home and let us ride the running board as far as the garage.

It was trying to climb the high hill on the opposite bank, not stepping on the profusion of false Solomon’s seal or the violets. (That hill is now covered with condominiums and isn’t nearly as high as it used to be and the flowers are all gone.)

It was sitting in a favorite apple tree, reading, reading, reading Black Beauty, Jungle Babies, Moorland Mousie — losing one’s self in the story, hating to come back to earth.

It was gritting our teeth as we flew down the sidewalk on our rollerskates, remembering to jump over the large uneven crack.

It was sneaking into the old overgrown cemetery beside the church to pick a huge bouquet of lilies of the valley — who knows who first started them there and then they flourished among the fallen and illegible tombstones.

It was hearing our neighbor calling her twin sons in for supper and it was seeing the bats fly out from the shutters and it was listening to the wood thrush sing on the hill.

It was a summer day about to become a summer night and neither will ever come again.

Now, wasn’t that better than all the bad news?

Food for thought

And for a pleasant closing thought, a dear friend passed this along to me, knowing I’d like it: We talk of sunshine and moonshine and starshine, but not of cloudshine which is yet one of the illuminations of our skies. A shining cloud is one of the most majestic of all secondary lights.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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