[written in August of ’07]
Lately everything seems to remind me of the best part of my childhood…summertime. Maybe it’s the season itself or perhaps the fact that my son is off on probably the longest summer vacation of his life. Or maybe, just maybe, it was sitting on a bench in front of Don’s dad’s house the other day, smoking a cigarette and noticing the way the setting sun hit the roof peaks, bathing them in a certain golden hue that I have always associated with summers in Indiana. Nothing about summer as an adult can compare to those long, stretched out months between one grade and another.
The land was flat. So flat you could see a dark, thin tornado miles away while standing on your front porch in the safety of perfectly flat, still air. That air was dry and the heat was never overpowering. The Charles Chips truck came to deliver on a regular basis. Big tins of crispy, salty potato chips and giant crunchy dark pretzels. We’d leave the house first thing in the morning and join our friends in a line of banana seated bicycles with our ponytails flying behind us and no destination in mind. No one wore helmets and if you fell down you scraped your knee, laughed about it, got up and rejoined the band of the best friends you’d ever have in your life.
We were children in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Untouched by Vietnam or Watergate. We were free, unfettered, unaware of anything that didn’t revolve around our neighborhood. Practicing the dance routine made up to Rockin’ Robin. Reading Tigerbeat Magazine. Putting up posters of Donny Osmond or, in my case, Tony DiFranco (“Heartbeat, it’s a lovebeat, and when we meet, it’s a good sensation…”). Ice cream dripping down our hands to become a sticky mess we licked up with eager tongues. By the time we were six or seven we could walk to the drugstore by ourselves and get bags of candy. I always bought the giant pixie sticks – plastic striped wonders filled with tart powder that I poured down my throat, followed by little wax bottles filled with some kind of colored sweet liquid.
Before I moved away and before they started expanding our little neighborhood into a development, we had a dirt track that ran around a field next to a farm behind our street. My friends and I would head there at sunset and watch the surrey races. Nowadays, surrey races involve BMX, but back then they were low slung black two wheeled buggies built for one rider and harnessed to the beautifully small horses. The dust would fly in the late summer afternoons as we perched on an old wooden fence and sat in comfortable silence together watching the men prod their leads around and around in a seemingly neverending cycle. Tammy. Dini. Julie. Betsy. Scott.
And when my eyes grew dusty and tired of watching, they’d wander across the street to the small, flat ranch houses and the way the setting sun hit the roofpeaks in that rosy, golden hue that would never be matched at any other time in my life.