Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sweet Summertime

My dad lifts me up on the counter as he stirs my strawberry milk. We are listening to the radio and he lets a bad word slip when he hears it's Clinton that was elected. It's summer, and I am five years old. Later that morning, my brother and I stand with noses pressed against the sliding glass door as we wait for our neighbor Jenny to come over with her dog. We follow her to the radio station where she has invented her own board game because she is older than us and we think she is so cool. She passes out cold bottled cokes from the small fridge and we count the minutes until we have to be home for supper.

We all sit on the covered carport, listening to Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks and methodically stringing green beans. It's summertime and I am eleven. I watch my grandpa tend to the boiling pressure cookers and I hear my grandma and her daughters talk about who married who and where everyone from their high school is today. We sit with the humming fan stirring July heat, and after the beans are all canned the cousins all line up on the picnic table and eat watermelon until the juice runs down our arms. As the sun slowly disappears and the lightning bugs come out, we load up in our car and wave goodbye to grandmaw until she disappears from sight.

I take short, gasping breaths as I try to outrun the stitch in my side. Summer two-a-days have started, and I am 16 and no longer a high school freshman. The lights are on and the crowd cheers just for us- eleven kids who think the world starts and ends with the referee's whistle and ninety minutes on a painted field. The rest of my body has finally caught up with my long legs, and my teeth are straight even without the braces. I am confident and probably in the best shape of my life. I drive myself home in my shiny new gently used Altima, past the Nashville skyline with the windows down and the radio blaring. This is what freedom feels like.

Tweny-four summers have come and gone; these days they are spent mainly inside, painting the walls or sewing curtains, proofing grad school papers and cooking dinner. It's familiar and comforting to look back and see how the years have shaped and changed me, and it makes me wonder too what's coming next. Summers are the reason I think marshmallows were made to be dipped in strawberry milk, the reason I will always hear Alan Jackson and think of my grandma and the sound of jars sealing as they cool on the cinderblocks, the reason that the smell of fresh cut grass makes me long for a ball at my feet and space to run. Summer- you always end before I am ready to see you go, if I blink I can miss you altogether, but you never fail to give me great memories to look back on.  

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