We — my family — didn’t go anywhere in the summer. Not to the beach, lugging our oversize towels and brown bottles of Coppertone and pimento-cheese sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper; not to the shell shops to buy hermit crabs in little cages for $2; not to the fishing pier with our Coleman ice chests and rented rods and reels and cardboard cartons of bait; not to the boardwalk for doughnuts or cotton candy or corn on the cob.
We didn’t take sunset beach walks or fill mesh bags with shells or build sand castles with plastic buckets or stamp our feet on splintery wooden decks to knock the sand off the soles of our feet or hang our dripping bathing suits off balcony rails; we didn’t climb into bumper cars with sunburned legs or send golf balls ricocheting off windmills or miniature lighthouses.
We didn’t lie in our motel beds at night, thin cotton sheets sticking to our Noxzema’d skin, the sliding glass door open so that we could hear the ocean.
We didn’t load up the car with picnic baskets and AAA travel guides and drive to the mountains, to a cabin in the woods or a camp, to spear marshmallows with sticks and sing Harry Chapin songs and make Popsicle-stick tissue boxes and tie-dye T-shirts; we didn’t go to the Land of Oz or to Cherokee or to a swimming hole with a tire hanging from a tree, or to a milky-green lake with paddleboats and skinny docks off of which we most definitely didn’t cannonball.
But we did lie back on the grass in our backyards, a sprinkler hooked to a garden hose shooting arcs over our heads; we sliced into watermelons with our pocketknives, rinds still covered in dirt, gouging pieces and popping them into our mouths, pink juice running across our knuckles; we watched honeybees dive toward patches of clover; and we smelled the change in the afternoon air and listened as storms moved in, deep rolls of thunder that sent us racing inside and shook the floorboards of the house.
When it rained, we read — oh, so many books we read, Henry Huggins and Sounder and Island of the Blue Dolphins and A Wrinkle in Time, and in doing so, I guess we traveled, after all: to Oregon, to California, to other eras and even other worlds.
And somehow, we managed to get ahold of sparklers and pop guns and we chased each other and our parents came outside, too, something they never did in any other season, to sink into webbed lawn chairs and balance cold cans — Pepsi, Schlitz — on their knees, and we opened our windows and screen doors in case the telephone rang and someone needed to run inside, where there was always a mound of something that had just been fried — rounds of squash, pieces of okra — draining on paper towels next to the stove.
We spent our summers right where we lived, and it never occurred to any of us that we’d been missing out, that we should go in search of summer somewhere else.
Summer managed to find us just fine.