“Summer Memories,” June 25, 2018

What are your favorite summer memories? I have lots. One happened just yesterday. I’ll tell you about it. But first, here are some other favorites.

When I was 8, we lived in a house surrounded by pastures and orchards. I spent summer days roaming alone, crawling under barbed wire fences, eating peaches and dodging cows.

Then a dog showed up, a shepherd sent from Heaven. I fed him scraps and called him “Rin,” short for “Rin Tin Tin.” Wherever I went, Rin followed. And I wasn’t alone any more.

Walking home once, we got caught in a storm. Rain poured, lightning sizzled, thunder shook the Earth. We huddled beneath a tree — a girl and a dog taking shelter in each other –until we both stopped shaking. I ate a peach. Rin licked the juice off my face. Then the sun came out and we headed on home.

Sometimes still, when I hear thunder, I can close my eyes and swear I taste peaches and smell a wet dog.

When was the first time you saw fireworks? I was 10 when the mill where my stepfather worked hosted a Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza for the millhands and their families. I had never seen fireworks or heard the word “extravaganza.” But I was pretty sure it meant eating hotdogs in 100-degree heat, swatting flies and bees and mosquitoes.

I didn’t want to go. But my brother, Joe, who was 6, and totally blind, shouted, “I’d sure love to see fireworks!”

So we went. Sure enough, we ate hotdogs in 100-degree heat, swatting flies and bees and mosquitoes. But when the sun went down, the fireworks began and I would never be the same. Once you’ve seen fireworks, you’ll always want to believe that anything is possible.

The best part of that memory? Joe clapped and laughed with each explosion. He couldn’t see the fireworks, but his mind’s eye could picture them. And I saw them sparkling in his eyes.

Have you ever fallen in love with reading? I hope so. Growing up, I spent time every summer with my grandparents on their farm. My grandmother taught me to read before I started school. I liked reading a lot. I especially liked it when she read to me, which she did each night before bed. Then the summer I was 12, she handed me a book as big as a Bible and said, “Read this.”

So I did. For days. In the porch swing. Up in the barn loft. Down by the creek with my feet in the water. In bed late at night with a flashlight under the covers. It was “Gone with the Wind.” I read it word for word, cover to cover, from “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm….” to “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

And I fell forever in love with Rhett Butler and reading. To this day, summer isn’t summer without a few good books.

Yesterday, my husband and I drove out to Carmel Valley with my daughter and her 6-year-old, Henry, to hear a friend play music at a winery. We sat outdoors on sofas, talking and laughing with friends, listening to the music. Henry and a boy his age sat at our feet with a few good dogs and drew Pokemon pictures.

It reminded me of summer evenings long ago, playing in the yard with my cousins while my mother and her sisters sat on the porch singing harmonies.

Driving back from the valley, I asked Henry if he’d had fun.

“Yes!” he said. “I loved being with all those nice people and their dogs, and listening to that wonderful, wonderful music. It was just splendid!”

That’s my latest favorite summer memory. What’s yours?

Here’s wishing you a summer filled with fireworks and laughter, good books, great friends, wonderful music and peaches ripe for eating; a companion to shelter you in every storm; and a child to remind you that life is splendid — and anything is possible.


  1. Nanci Waters says

    Ah, good move! I am SO happy for you and Mark!

  2. I look forward to and love the columns you write – and your childhood memories of the Carolinas are favorites. They are reminiscent of many of my memories. I’m 72 and was growing up in northwest North Carolina when I also devoured Gone with the Wind along with other books I found at our public library that was less than a block away. We lived with my maternal grandmother most of my childhood, and she had a profound influence on me, especially instilling in me a love of our mountain culture. Unfortunately I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I did enjoy summers, sometimes a whole week, with my paternal grandparents in the southern mountains. I would spend hours sitting in the barn trying to catch one of the barn kittens to play with. One year my efforts paid off and I succeeded in convincing my mother to allow me to take one home with me. Maybe my parents were softened by having their fill of homemade peach ice cream that my Dad and his brothers had muscled over a hand crank churn to produce as we cousins also played in the yard. Special times!

  3. I also read “Gone with the Wind”…at least 8 times cover to cover. The first 7 times, I read Melanie as Ma-lane-ee 🙂

    The smell of fireworks, eating fruits and veggies fresh out of the garden (to this day I prefer fruit room temp!), and the summer spent doing the Nestea Plunge over and over and over in my cousin’s pool, discovering AM radio and singing “The Night Chicago Died” and “Taking Care of Business”. Good memories!!

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    Thanks for taking us all to Carmel Valley – such a beautiful place. And yes, books are always part of summer… currently it is “Pull Up A Chair – The Vin Scully Story” (Vin was a perennial summer joy).

    Tough to pick out the favorite summer memory but I think I have it. Summer of 1974, I’d met the “one I knew I would marry” in the spring and was already head over heels… He had long planned a six week camping trip in the eastern Sierra and I knew better than to ask him not to go ?. This was long before cell phones and texting – we wrote letters that still sit in my memories box in the closet (under old report cards from grammar school!). In one letter he suggested that I drive with a friend and visit him for a few days – I begged (and likely bribed) my best friend to come on the adventure. Unfortunately the campground he chose was not well marked and we drove up and down 395 looking for it… from Mammoth Lakes to Topaz Lake… for three days! Finally, just before my dear, patient friend was ready to drop me off in the middle of nowhere we spotted a small cardboard sign – “KATE AND SUE, TURN HERE!” I still have that sign too… somewhere….?

  5. Sharon I still remember the beauty of Carmel Valley, from 1977-80 when we lived at Fort Ord. And then after my son was born in 1979 I would take him to Monterey Bay beach, covered with rocks, and watch him stare in awe. Still have a pic of that on my wall. Thank you for your beautiful memories, and your words.

  6. Davey Myers says

    Without a doubt Summers spent on Seneca Lake. Waking in the morning, jumping into a bathing suit, running out of the cottage straight into the lake! Playing Jesse James in the woods, flying on vines across the creek, fireworks at the neighbors, reading in a tree and white hots (which you can only get in Upstate New York…they are fabulous). It was a time in my life that I truly felt free. Just doesn’t get any better than that.

  7. Elaine Turner says

    Have always loved reading. It all started with Dick and Jane, then Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Gone With The Wind, the classics. I’m 77 and still love books.

  8. Carolyn Applin says

    I look forward to your column every week! My husband reads it to me every Monday evening, it’s become a tradition with us. Thanks for all the wonderful memories your columns evoke. May God bless you and your family ♥️♥️

  9. My favorite memory was sneaking into our neighbors land and “taking a few watermelons” every summer. They were so good. My Dad and I had such fun doing that. The neighbor was a good friend but Dad and I always treated it like a game.

  10. Great column as usual!! Your columns always have a way of touching me and I see so many similarities between your life and mine.

  11. Carol toothman says

    I read Gone with The wind when I was about 12 also!! I remember curling up on my uncle Bill’s old wooden porch swing going back and forth reading the book. He would take me into town every 2 weeks to the library for more books. Probably my best memory I my entire life is of reading on that old wooden porch swing. Life was good then!!

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