I love the website The Bright Side Project. They highlight beautiful finds from around the web as well as artists and bloggers. The best part is they give away something free every day. How fun is that? In order to win, you have to ask a question posed by the highlighted contributor. Lately, it seems as though the questions have all been about summer memories, “What is your best childhood summer memory?” or “What smells and sounds remind you of summer?” It got me thinking and reminiscing about my earliest childhood summer memories.
I spent the first 14 years of my life in Canada, living in and around the Toronto area. Anyone that has ever lived in a cold-weather climate knows that summer is anticipated and celebrated with great gusto. Living in southern California, summer is appreciated but not the way it is in the northern climes. We would count down the days to the end of school (what kid doesn’t?) and look forward to shedding sweaters, jackets, boots and shoes in favor of barefeet or flip-flops and a bathing suit or a pair of shorts.
We were fortunate to have a cottage outside the city that we could escape to every year. It was located on the lake shore in a church camp community near the town of Cobourg. We could count on seeing the same familiar faces there year in and year out. When Kid’s camp wasn’t on, our days were spent riding our bikes down the gravel roads, playing with our summer friends, throwing rocks in the lake, betting who could make theirs skip the furthest and hanging out at the beach. The campground was self-contained with only one road in and mom wouldn’t expect to see us all day, unless we were hungry or wanted some money to buy a bag of candy at the tuck shop.
I remember how much more relaxed my mother was in this environment. With most of the dads coming to the cottage when they could escape work in the city for a few days here and there, it was primarily kids and moms whiling away the lazy days. I loved seeing my beautiful tanned mom, relaxing and laughing with her friends in the sunshine. We would wander up and down the beach between the clusters of kids and women, begging money for a popsicle, building sand castles, and splashing in the waves. Hours were spent on the swings, pumping our legs as hard as we could, trying to touch the sky and jumping into the hot sand.
Back in those days, we still dressed up for church, so after a long day running down tar-covered roads and rolling in the sand, we would clean up (or at least wash off our feet), brush out our hair and dress up in our bright cotton dresses. I had a friend or two that I would meet along the way and we would skip our way to the evening kid’s service.
There were always contests (boys against the girls) with puppets, songs, games and more. The converted barn was set up for the children’s services and we would sit on the old wooden folding chairs with the fans whirring above us in the musty air. Sometimes we spied a mouse crawling along one of the rafters and would squeal with horror. We fidgeted and squirmed, carving our names into the arms of the chairs and passing notes to each other, whispering about the cute boy two rows up. After the sun set, nice and late in the summer, we would catch fireflies and roast marshmallows over bonfires in the backyard. If you wandered around long enough you were sure to find a backyard party at somebody’s cottage.
When the strawberries were in season, mom would pull out her jars and the big jam pot and spend a day, cutting, mashing, cooking and canning the delicious strawberry jam. Our favorite part was the pink, foamy bubbles that would boil to the surface. We would argue over who got the first taste of this creamy treat on a piece of bread.
The other summertime treat we anticipated was the first sweet corn of the season. Mom would banish us to the back steps with a bag and a bowl where we would shuck the corn. There was a big slab of butter on the middle of the picnic table and plenty of napkins to go around. We slathered the corn with the creamy yellow butter, salted generously and gobbled up the delicious corn while the butter dripped off our chins.
When dad was around, he would fire up the backyard barbecue and, as master of the grill, perfect the art of the ultimate burger. Up and down the backyards, the smell of charcoal and lighter fluid permeated the air.
The only hitch in our summer activities were rainy days, which I’m sure every mother dreaded. Those were Monopoly days. We would have friends over or, if mom managed to scoot us out of the house, knock on someone else’s door and set up the board for an epic game, sometimes lasting for hours. But eventually, even with the rain, we would make our way outside, splashing in the puddles with our rubber rain boots, twirling around with our umbrellas and floating homemade boats down the streams that ran down the roadsides. After the rain would stop, the humidity level would be high and we could smell the damp grass and earthworms.
It was one of the saddest days of the year when we would pack up our summer things, pile them into the car, close up the cottage and wave goodbye to our summer friends to head back into the city. But we knew that next year they would be back, a little taller and ready for more summer adventures.