A thwack of the bat for the small-town teams, the Asheboro Copperheads, the Wilson Tobs, the Fayetteville SwampDogs; the bubbly organ notes of the walk-up song; the jabber of the grandstand fans; the joyful shrieks of children on the grass behind the fence, smacking their Rawlings gloves with balled-up fists, hoping for a wayward foul; then, finally, the explosive bang-boom of fireworks and, back at home, the caterwaul cacophony of katydids and cicadas and crickets, an all-male chorus chiming chirping chittering deep into the heavy summer night.
Summer sizzles like no other season: okra frying in a cast-iron skillet; thick hamburgers and hot dogs, Bright Leaf Reds from the Selma IGA, from the Kenly Piggly-Wiggly, blistering on a charcoal grill; fresh-from-the-boat shrimp from Haag and Sons, from Eagle Island, from Surf City Crab, hissing and sputtering in the pan at the family’s rental house at Oak Island, at Carolina Beach, at Topsail, on the Fourth of July.
There goes the rev of the lawnmower; the thht-thht-thht of a water sprinkler; watermelon slurps and glugs of iced tea and the whir of the electric ice cream freezer, kept in the garage for decades, the one with the old-fashioned wooden side panels, its weathered bucket now packed with ice and rock salt, its metal lid icing over. The easy swish of a glider, a hammock, a swing on the front porch. Turn off the air conditioner and roll a casement window crank, smooth and slow, to let in the waft of a summer breeze; by afternoon come the thunderclaps that soon fade to low, muffled rumbles and then nothing at all but a still, dark night.
Then here come the quietest of creatures, the fireflies — lightning bugs — darting silently through the evening, and now summer has finally settled down.
On those quietest of Sunday summer mornings, my grandmother and I walked from her house up the hill to the church, Asheboro Friends Meeting, her hand on my shoulder for balance, gravel scritching beneath our shoes. We climbed the brick steps in silence, pausing at the top so she could catch her breath, and then we entered through the white doors to our pew on the right side, the same seat every Sunday, and after a hymn and the pastor’s message, simple but meaningful, we sat in stillness, my feet dangling from the pew, my grandmother’s hands folded in her lap.
The Quaker service I knew included 20 minutes or so of open worship — a centering down, it was called — when everyone sat in silence, unless someone was moved to speak, and even then, the message was quiet, gentle. And maybe you wouldn’t think it from a child, but I always liked this part the best, lulled by the calmness of such a peaceful place and by my grandmother’s soothing whispers of prayers and by the chance we all had to say thank you for these days, when summer gave us permission to slow down and simply listen.