A Sprinkle of Summer
As the school year ends with a fizzle…kids have been home since March, bedtimes are already pushing the limit, there is joyous squealing from neighborhood backyards at 11pm… I think about my summers.
Fire Island, The Douglaston Club. The Dock. Skateboarding down the hill. Straight down the hill. Giving up skateboarding but having the scar on my knee to this day. Diving lessons and swim team. Rosy cheeks and sunburnt shoulders. Mr Softee (grumpy) and The Good Humor Man (sweet). Playing S.P.U.D. with the paddy wagon of shame, crawling through people’s legs, on asphalt with bare knees. Lunching on French fries and ketchup, purchased with a fresh book of club tickets…from the cute boy at the snack bar. Walking around “the point” (fun fact: we lived on a peninsula, rumored to have inspired East Egg in The Great Gatsby). Babysitting. Tennis: playing it, watching it, living it. Cards, Spit and Rummy 500. Towels: to dry us off, to sit on, to wear. The smell of salt from the ocean and chlorine from the pool washing off sun-kissed skin. Playing in sprinklers, stepping on bees. Water balloons and cap guns. Summer birthdays. Fireflies in jars with hole-punched lids, glowing, dying. 4th of July community relay races, ribbons of many colors. Fireworks with even more colors. The water ballet. Summer.
I grew up in Queens, on the Little Neck Bay. I grew up in summer heaven. I had no idea how special it was. We only know what we live. I just assumed every kid spent summer days going from the country club two blocks from home to their beach house on Fire Island, then back again. That was just normal. I know now, it is beyond…not normal.
I also lived through the Son of Sam…the Summer of Sam. We watched the headlines in the paper each morning. The Post, already dramatic and hysterical, outdid itself day after day. We read hoping for clues, hoping it would be over soon. My sister and her friends had to be in by dark, he was targeting girls with long hair in Queens, he killed a couple right across the bay. I never admitted it, but I liked having her home. I liked family time.
Summer was the NYC blackout, our family was at the movie The Deep. We drove home in the dark, slowly, no traffic lights, no lights at all. Then we sat in the dark at the breakfast room table, worrying about our restaurant in Times Square, when Bryant Park was a drug den, 42nd Street was peep shows and prostitutes. The morning papers showed the city being overtaken by looters. Dad would go in and check the damage, no cell phones, we just waited, hoping he would get home ok. Hoping the store survived. Waiting for the screen door to slam.
During the Kavanaugh hearings, Christine Blasey Ford brought up the summer parties they used to attend. She was asked specifics. Where was the party, who was attending, what, where, who, when. And she described what so many privileged teens did every summer during the 80s…we just were, and we just went from house to house. If the parents were oblivious or out…that’s were you could find us, kegs, cases, us. We learned a lot of social skills this way, no social media meant that not every bad decision we made was recorded. We made mistakes. I remember listening to the hearings and screaming at the tv…JUST ADMIT IT. You did it. You did it because you were a horny teenager who was an asshole. It was a different time when horrible behavior was somehow acceptable. Admit you are sorry. Say you are so so so sorry. We lived those summers. We know those summers. We probably have things we regret from those summers.
I think about this coming summer, sad that people will not be able to have all the experiences they wanted, that it will not be perfect. But then I look at my brain spill of summer memories and I see it is not only good stuff I hold dear…there are some really hard moments in there, some scary moments, some things that one would wish away…except I don’t. I love all of my memories because they make me who I am. The hard ones have shaped my spirit and the delicious ones have given me joy that I want to spread. Summers of growth make us appreciate the summers of fun. May we all grow in leaps and bounds this summer, may we look back and be proud of how we made a difficult situation better. Happy Summer.