Remembering summertime when the livin' was easy

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high

Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’

So hush little baby, don’t you cry.

-- From Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, 1934

What is it about summer that makes us think that life runs at a slower pace? I think it is a factor of childhood. Have you ever noticed that the younger you are, the slower time passes? It was eons and eons from Halloween to Christmas and the school year seemed impossibly long. Now that we are, ahem, more mature, the years seem to zip by at the speed of a rotund man at a buffet table.

My memories of summer as a kid include hanging blankets and quilts on the square, rotary, outdoor clothesline to make a tent and playing for hours and hours at being gypsies, pioneers, or whatever else suited us that day. If I wasn’t there, I was either up the lane in the canal or next door in the ditch playing in the water with my plastic dolls. I had some long-suffering Dawn and Barbie dolls who spent so much time submerged in irrigation water it is a wonder they ever got dry.

Then there were the evenings. I remember helping my mom pick peas from the garden and shelling them while sitting on the back patio swatting mosquitos. Or sometimes it was beans. When that job was done, the neighbor kids might come over for a rousing game of kick-the-can followed by a refreshing Kool-Aid break. We’re not talking the premixed stuff in hygienic, neat little bottles. No, this was the little packets mixed with a cup of sugar, two quarts of water and stirred vigorously. This usually resulted in red stains on the kitchen counter and crunchy sugar spilled on the floor.

I remember the impossibly long, hot afternoons helping my mom can peaches. My favorite part was slipping the peelings off the parboiled fruit. There are few things slicker than a peeled peach. I used to nervously watch the big pressure cooker kettle as the little round doohickey on the top wobbled back and forth, driven by the pressure of the steam. I was sure that the top was going to blow off and shower us with peach slices and broken glass. Then there was the satisfying “ping, ping” of the Mason jar lids as they sealed on the cooling bottles.

Summertime meant bare feet and running wild for days without having my hair combed and my braids redone until the sticks and leaves in them were too obvious to ignore. It meant soft tar in the normally hard street and the hard-to-soft melting coolness of Popsicles savored in the shade on a warm afternoon. It meant freedom from school and schedules. It meant days when the livin’ was easy. What do you remember about summer?

 

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