...and the pavements are burning*
I always wondered what it was like to have a “normal” summer. My summer memories are filled with spending most of my time at my grandparents’ business, cottages on Lake Erie.
My grandparents bought the business when I was five years old and didn’t sell it until the year I graduated college. My family life was so tied to the business, I’ve found it difficult to remember carefree summers.
When I was little, my parents would bring me with them to the cottages and I’d entertain myself while they worked. I’d watch my Saturday morning cartoons. I’d go with my grandpa to pick up donuts for everyone. I’d take a book and sit on the swing at the top of the hill with a view of the beach and lake.
Later on, when I was old enough, I pitched in and cleaning the cottages became my summer job. I spent most of each week there during the summer school break.
When I went back to school in the fall, I’d find out that kids my age went on summer vacations with their families. Some went to camp. Some lived at the municipal pool. A lot of kids hung out at the beach and played volleyball or sunbathed.
I wanted to tap into some long ago memories that require more effort to access. I wanted to remember the parts of summertime without the cottages.
The fun of summer was tetherball and four square. Pussy willows that surrounded a tree in our backyard. Washing cars in the driveway, pretending to be mad when you got wet, but secretly loving the cool down. Tennis and badminton. Trying to swing as high as I could on the swing set at the lake. Running around the house to close the windows when the truck passed by to spray for mosquitoes.
I recall my bicycle trajectory from pretending I’m Penelope Pitstop on my tricycle to my Pink Huffy to my ten speed. I remember riding my bike with my parents, usually with one or the other, never together. Each one would ride while smoking a cigarette and I would ride ahead of them, embarrassed to be seen with them. Later on, I would go for solo bike rides, further and further from home, feeling so grown up and adventurous.
My mom would stock the upright freezer in the utility room with our favorite icy snacks; sherbet and popsicles for her; Drumsticks and Fudgsicles for Dad; orange push-ups and Flav-Or-Ice freezer pops for me.
I remember picnic tables filled with bowls of cold salads—pasta, potato, and macaroni. Grilled chicken kabobs with chunks of peppers and onions, marinated in Italian dressing. The women would make pork ‘n’ beans, the men would shuck corn on the cob for boiling.
Mom would carve a watermelon boat and filled with more melon, pineapple, and berries.
Freezer pickles started to make an appearance. Mom made copious amounts of sour cream cucumbers. A glass of trimmed green onions in ice water appeared on the summer dinner table. Dad would take them and dip them in a small pile of salt and crunch away.
In my teen years, I remember the constant sight of Mom’s sun tea jar in the kitchen window.
Flag cake became a common sight on the 4th. Mom’s recipe from her carefully curated collection:
I made one this week. I got bored halfway through and just wanted to start eating it, so it’s a bit messy. That seemed appropriate for my country’s 4th of July this year.
Now that we’ve settled in SW Florida, summers are different. Summers are for estivating. I just learned that word from Austin Kleon and it’s become my new favorite.
Estivation is like hibernation, only it applies to summer. It’s exactly the word for how I spend my Florida summers. Early, cooler mornings on the lanai with iced coffee. A/C and blinds tilted closed in the heat of the afternoon. Icy beverages and chilled salads. Not much of a baking season because I don’t want to turn on the oven.
It’s time for quiet. It’s time to slow down.
And if I’m in the kitchen, it’s time to make more popsicles.
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Thanks again for reading! I care about you. Let’s live it up a little this week. Treat yourself to some ice cream.
*lyric from Bananarama’s Cruel Summer.