Dixie Peach: Watermelon with salt

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Watermelon with salt

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city

As I've been enjoying the summertime weather that's finally reached us I've been thinking back on summers from my childhood. When I think back on the better parts of my childhood I'm usually thinking back to something that occured in the summertime. Maybe it's because winter saw us all cooped up together as a family and our ability to be together in closed quarters before some sort of chaos broke out grew more fragile as the weather got colder.

Swimming was a big part of summer for us. My family always had a membership to the local swim club and until I had a summer job as a teenager I spent virtually every sunny day there. Swim team practice began at 8am until around 10:30am and afterwards we'd sprint home to watch I Love Lucy and Dick van Dyke Show reruns until after lunch. I remember afternoons being filled with slathering ourselves with Coppertone and laying out until the heat on our skin got to be unbearable and then we'd plunge into the pool and practice handstands and play games of Marco Polo. We'd stay until we were starving and then run the three blocks home to eat everything we could stuff down ourselves and hide in the curtain drawn coolness of the family room and watch the late afternoon movie until my mother would walk in and say "You'd better not be still in your bathing suit and getting that sofa wet!".

Before we'd be called in to eat supper the kids in the neighborhood would gather outside. Maybe we'd play kickball, the action being interrupted as someone would call out "Car!" and we'd move aside to let one of our fathers into a driveway. Sometimes we'd draw crooked hopscotch squares and impress one another with our one footed hopping technique. At times we'd sit together on the curb in a line, all of us eating whatever treat we'd purchased from the Good Humor man after we'd made him stop and screamed for our mothers to bring us some change. I remember a Chocolate Eclair bar being 35 cents and thinking it was insanely expensive.

When I lived in Virginia I looked forward to the two or three weeks we'd spend in Mississippi with my Aunt Cora. We had other cousins who lived just up the street from her and we'd spend every day up and down the street at one yard or another. We'd play softball or swim or walk down to the nearby Dairy Queen for a cone - mine was always chocolate. At least once during the trip we'd pile into a line of cars and drive to Pickwick Dam for a picnic and swimming in the Tennessee River.

Even rainy days weren't so bad. We'd watch old movies and TV shows and then when they failed to hold our interest we'd play our favorite rainy day game, Rock Band. I believe this was the brainchild of my cousin, Danny, who at that time owned the largest collection of records I'd ever seen. My cousin Wanda's big livingroom was the favorite location for this game as it could hold a dozen kids easily, plus our "instruments". An ironing board made an excellent organ. The upright vacuum cleaner was our mike stand. Buckets were used for drums and badminton rackets and flyswatters were used for guitars. Everyone wanted to be the lead singer and so we'd have to rotate that job. You'd get to pick a song from the vast collection of Danny's 45s and by far the most popular song for us to pick was the Loving Spoonful's Summer In The City. I never hear that song that I don't think of what we now refer to as the Flyswatter Band.

Cool town, evening in the city
Dressing so fine and looking so pretty
Cool cat, looking for a kitty
Gonna look in every corner of the city
Till I'm wheezing like a bus stop
Running up the stairs, gonna meet you on the rooftop

Summer evenings were even better. Mayonnaise jars with holes punched in the top were brought out so we could catch fireflies. We'd sit on the porch swing, radio softly playing in the background and talk about kid stuff - toys we liked or games or cool TV shows or movies we wanted to see. We'd eat Kool Pops, our mouths stained red or orange or blue, and discuss whether we'd play hide and seek or flashlight tag. The neighborhood was our kingdom and we'd play in every yard - finding everyone could take an hour and then we'd start another round. Afterwards we'd sit under a streetlight, filmed in a thin sheen of sweat, and wave off bugs until our mothers would call us back home for chillled watermelon, a bath and bed.


Blogger Mr. Fabulous said...

Man, what a beautiful post, so evocative of good, simpler times...

1:45 AM  
Blogger amulbunny said...

I remember being able to run back and forth between houses separated by the alley. Playing olley olley oxen free and red light green light during the summer. Big back yards with lots of kids and big ole trees that were good for hiding.

Up north where the days lingered long and you waited impatiently for the sun to finally set so you could light your fireworks on July 4th.

Remembering the dog days of August when the lakes "bloomed" and you didn't go in the water until someone drove their boat through it to break it up.

We'd go with our next door neighbor who was our sitter in her Tbird to the River singing Johnny Angel at the top of our lungs. ( Her dad bought a brand new 1962 Tbird that summer).

Thanks for stirring those memories for me Dixie!

7:24 AM  
Blogger christina said...

Oh wow, you just described my childhood summers minus the fireflies. Those were the days. Thanks for the memories. :-)

7:56 AM  
Blogger Jemima said...

The freedom, for sure, I remember, but otherwise that's a glimpse into another world for me. 7 am and I've already travelled over the ocean and in time. I'll carry your summers with me. Thank you.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Romani Heart said...

Your summers sound alot like mine growing up :)

6:24 PM  
Blogger Kirsti said...

Your writing continues to blow me away. So evocative - you had me right there with you. I hope that you can carry the joy and simplicity with you still.

7:46 PM  
Blogger MPC said...

I know what you mean, Dix. In my memory, every summer day of my childhood was warm but not too hot, with a light breeze blowing the white puffy clouds across the sky. Or if it rained, we played board games or fingerpainted while the rain drummed on the tin roof. Either way, it was fun.

7:31 PM  

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