As a kid, summertime lasted forever.
The days were endless, filled with trips to the pool, vacation Bible school, whiffle ball games and sibling rivalry. And still the hours seemed to nod and drone.
We’d stand in the back yard in the rising heat after breakfast and wonder how many years would pass before dinnertime.
One particular year, Mom bought a book called “A Mother’s Manual for Summer Survival” that featured on the front cover an exaggerated and somewhat offensive (to my 10-year-old eyes) depiction of an overwhelmed matron desperately in need of relief from her own offspring. I remember wondering if this was how we made our mom feel. The cartoon mother held a crying baby, was being accosted by two screaming toddlers and had nearly a half dozen other children ravaging her yard with every stereotypical childish hi-jinx imaginable. Slingshots, wading pools, water balloons, cats and footballs were all involved in the melee that was spread out before her.
The picture made me glad to only have two siblings. It also made me think that compared to all that mess, biting my brother during a wrestling match should be considered a minor offense and I shouldn’t be in so much trouble.
Later there were dishes to do. Then there was a garden to tend with Dad and raspberry bushes to pluck. If I was lucky, there was ice cream sherbet in a bowl after a lukewarm shower.
Finally, I would lay in bed in the still half-light of a waning summer evening, clad in my “summer PJs” (they came out of a big plastic bag in the attic as the weather started to warm) and listen to the AM broadcast of the local minor league baseball game. As the announcers signed off, the station played the Mantovani version of “Born Free” and I’d lay there drawing circles across the ceiling with my eyes and thinking of all the lions and tigers and what Africa must be like. I finally drifted into sleep.
I remember returning to school at the end of each August and seeing fellow classmates as if they were long-lost, barely recognizable shadows of people I used to know, now with sun-kissed faces and new haircuts.
And I was different, too. I’d weathered the longest of the seasons and was better and stronger and mosquito-bitten for it.
Mom wasn’t the only survivor.