Monday, July 02, 2007

Fun Monday - Memories of Summer

Fun Monday is hosted this week by JeninKS and she posed this challenge:
The topic for this Fun Monday is summer memories. Besides a few of your favorite summer memories, I'd like to hear what summer means to you. Is summer all about fireworks, watermelon seed wars, catching fireflies, days at the lake, family vacations, or the perfect swimsuit? What sights, smells, sounds, tastes, feelings do you associate with summer?

I live in Florida. I grew up in the same city I live in now (only back then it was a town). If you've ever been here in the summer, you might agree that it's a miserable affair. Or maybe it's me... millions of people make the journey to just be here for a week or two out of the year because of our climate. I don't get it though. To me, hot and humid are two words that should have NEVER seen each other or been combined. I absolutely wilt when it's like that - and it's like that almost everyday of the summer and right on up into October. I felt this way, even as a young child living in a house with no air conditioning. Every summer night, I would lie on my bed using the window sill as my pillow and could only sleep when the gigantic attic fan drew the air over my body and cool me enough to be comfortable. You can't do that now. Attic fans were terrific for moving air, but no one sleeps with their windows open anymore. Just as my town has turned into a city, my cooling devices have turned from attic fans to air conditioning units and ceiling fans.

So it was with great joy that I became "old enough" to go to North Carolina in the summer.

I may have mentioned my somewhat odd family dynamics before... My Grandmother L (GL) divorced my grandfather when my mother was a young teen. But she kept his family. His sister (Aunt H) was her sister, his father her father, his nieces and nephews her nieces and nephews. We'd always kept in sporadic touch with them as they traveled through our town on their way to other places.

And every summer, Aunt H and my great-grandfather's second wife Aunt R would stop in and stay overnight with Grandma L on their way to North Carolina. This was always the occasion of a big family dinner, because traveling with so many kids, my parents took few trips. It was just too stressful and too expensive. So when anyone "passed through town", we got all our visiting in during the stopovers.

Until one magical summer, when Aunt H and Aunt R invited Grandma L and me to come up and spend a week in North Carolina with them. OMG, the excitement!!! We would drive up the next week. Just me and Grandma L (no brothers allowed!). I packed my shorts, my T's, my swimsuit and my flipflops and Grandma L picked me up in her red Mercedes to drive north.

Side note: When in town, Grandma L drove like a little old lady. It took forever to get anywhere. But put her out on the interstate and she drove like a bat out of hell. She was always telling us to watch for "spotter planes" while she rediscovered the thrill of pushing the needle up over the 100 mark. Trips to North Carolina took place in record time.

Every summer, Aunt H and Aunt R rented a cabin at Nantahala Village, an old timey kind of mountain resort with a lodge, a rec hall (plus swimming pool), and log cabins scattered through the woods. It was also COOL. Nantahala Village was located in the Nantahala Valley, near the Nantahala River (famous for rafting and kayaking), so we enjoyed misty cool mornings, brief warm afternoons, and lovely cool evenings. Sheer heaven for a heat-slogged kid like me.

But even better than the cool was the family. Aunt H's youngest two boys would drive up separately - Cousin F and Cousin S were teenagers of the coolest kind. While Cousin S was into music and girls (and we hardly ever saw him as a result), Cousin F was more of a loner and artistic in an interesting sort of way.

He was also more open to having me hang out with him. We drove around the mountains looking for fireworks stands (never found them), or he would watch over me when evening came and we headed up to the rec hall for a swim with the bats skimming the surface for bugs and occasionally my hair. And he would sit back quietly in a chair by the pool and smile that secret smile when he overheard people talking about the latest weird phenomenon to occur - like all the chairs piling up like a house of cards in the rec room. Or the gigantic spider web near the graveyard that had clothes stuck in it. The speculation over that one was hilarious. And Cousin F never said a word... just sat and listened and smiled to himself.

I hung out with the Aunts and GrandmaL a lot too. We'd go all over visiting fruit stands and funky little shops on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. A favorite pasttime was wading in the millions of little streams coming off the mountains and collecting stones from the bottom. Only the best stones would come home with us. I still have some of mine. One time they took me into Cherokee to see "Unto These Hills", which is an outdoor play about the history of the area. But mostly the evenings consisted of playing parcheesi and sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs and lawn chairs chatting about everything. None of those conversations stick out for interesting, memorable topics, but the feeling of closeness and enjoyment are what I remember most about them. Sometimes the cousins were there, and sometimes not... But I do remember one particular night when Cousin F and I were still sitting on the porch when Cousin S came home. The Aunts and Grandma L had just retired for the evening.

Cousin S joined us on the porch and we rocked back in our lawn chairs listening to the crickets. The porch of this cabin on a hill overlooked a ravine, and when you tilted your chair just right, you got the sensation that you were flying through the trees. So we sat out there together and flew our chairs for a while, drinking icy Coke out of bottles, telling stories and listening to the music of the night.

This time was all too brief. The Cousins became adults and got jobs and families of their own. The Aunts continued making their trips for a couple of years after that, but stopped after that - perhaps it was too lonely with just them.

I have lots of fun summer memories, but this one is closer to the surface right now because on Wednesday, I will be seeing the Cousins again!!!! I haven't seen them in 8 years and so much has happened and changed since then. Children have been born. Children have grown up. People have moved. People have retired. People have died. Jobs have changed. Trips have been taken. And new memories are ready to be made.


nikki said...

Great memories! Summer moments are too brief and over before you know it.

JennieBoo said...

Wonderful memories you have here. I enjoyed reading them!

Thanks for sharing!

Happy FunMonday!

Karmyn R said...

All the best summer memories involve grandparents!!!!

min said...

You touch my heart in so many ways! I love Florida in the summer. It never bothered me not having AC as a kid...but it probably would now. Loved traveling to St. Pete, Tampa, THE KEYS!!
The only thing better is a cabin in the woods. That is earth and nature and the growing-up experience. Wonderful!
Those weird spirits are still around...sometimes I'll find furniture in the bottom of the pool.

Beccy said...

I love your memories (I think I'm saying that a lot today). It's great that you will be seeing the cousins again and I hope you have a lovely trip and create some wonderful new memories.

mjd said...

Maybe the best memories are those yet to come but built on the past. Have a wonderful time with the Cousins.

Amy W said...

I love your memories as well...

willowtree said...

Wow, that was a really good post.

Kaytabug said...

I enjoyed your post. I lived in the Keys for some time so I know what you are talking about!
I just love rocking on a porch, I almost felt like I was right there beside you.

Pamela said...

quite a word picture of you sleeping on the window. An attic fan has a romantic whirl to it... at least on my tongue.

a pleasure this was!

swamp witch said...

Another FM post where Grandparents were the 'theme.' my cousins. Wish I was seeing them tomorrow so that, as you say, "new memories are ready to be made."

Anonymous said...

Happy Independence Day, Sayre.

From your Canadian neighbour.
Have a great day.

Jeff said...

Very good post. It is a great way to escape today.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I had the pleasure of going to Nantahala on two occasions with Uncle S and Uncle F. That second time, I actually quit my job to get sufficient time off for the trip (it was a lousy job, and a good excuse). Do wish I'd been able to experience that trip with Grandma H and Aunt R, but I am a little too young. Beautiful place.