“In summer, the song sings itself.”
— William Carlos Williams
There is something about a divine June afternoon that makes me feel like a kid again. I can dive in to cool water, ride my old bike, go for a walk to nowhere. It feels as though I spent the whole year up to now only semi-alive.
Summers of my youth were spent baling hay and straw, cleaning barns and training county fair calves. Add to that the adventures on a bike, riding as fast as the pedals could be pumped, searching for critters in the creek. The times spent with neighbor kids all made for a happy life.
Our Smalley cousins, three sisters, moved back to Ohio one great summer, living next door on our dairy farm, and our little world grew in wonderful ways. We put on our own theatrical performances, the audience no one but us seven girls.
Kim, the oldest, so pretty and sweet, could sing as beautifully as a lark, and I dreamed of becoming just like her one day. I’m still waiting for that transformation.
Their Aunt Clara Bodager invited us along to their Pleasant Hill cottage, and it gave us a new paradise to explore. We could walk to the beach and play all sorts of silly water games as we turned brown as berries in the sun. A simple sandwich pulled from a picnic basket was our feast, so delicious under that big blue sky.
Our mothers kept watch over us from beach chairs but didn’t intervene in our silly childhood games or battles. We worked out our differences while building inside jokes and shared boy crushes from afar.
We climbed aboard a floating dock to catch our breath, but couldn’t wait to dive back in. Swimming was better than anything, anywhere. I never wanted it to end.
“Time to get out, girls!” was always followed with our pleas for just a little more swim time. We spent the night in the cottage, after eating dinner on the back lawn, toasting marshmallows for our dessert.
The fun was just beginning — the older girls telling scary stories after climbing the loft ladder to our beds. I still vividly remember accounts of Illinois tornadoes our cousins had experienced in their years of living near their mother’s family. Exhaustion finally won, sending us to deep sleep.
After a great day or two, reality returned, our beach paradise replaced with second crop hay and twice-daily milking, summer bringing constant chores needing our attention.
All these years later, there is still such gratitude for happy memories built with our Smalley cousins and their dear aunt and uncle who owned the hardware store in our town. Their getaway cottage, though not that far away, felt like a great vacation spot to us.
I still remember vividly cresting that last hill on our way to the cottage, a breathtaking view of Pleasant Hill Lake out the front windshield, and declared it the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There really is nothing better than sweet, sweet summertime, even in age-old memories that will last a lifetime.
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