It was a blue and green day in summer and the heat shimmered on cement so hot you could fry an egg on it.
There were six of us crowding onto two beach towels we had laid possessively on our own little square of sand, glaring daggers at trespassers who dared to put so much as a sandy toe on the sacred material.
Four of the six beach goers were under seven-years-of age so crowding wasn’t difficult, nor did it last too long, as the lure of the lake proved too strong.
Whew! It was hot.
I had skipped out of work early because as everyone knows, even a bad day at the beach is better than a good day stuck inside four walls trying and failing miserably at being productive.
It was a made to order go to the beach day. The child sitting beside me on the way to our destination had obviously borrowed some blue from the summer sky above for her eyes as the color matched perfectly.
“You can have ice cream when we get there,” I told her as we began our journey.
“I don’t want an ice cream cone,” grandma, she said rather primly.
I smiled and said nothing, not bothering to explain to her that ice cream kind of goes with summer like ketchup goes with hot dogs and marshmallows with campfires.
We drove along the highway and I sang to her because that’s what I do when I’m in a car and it’s moving.
She looked at me like I was weird.
I smile again. I am weird, but in a good way, I tell her.
The highway was a dark ribbon winding its way through yellow fields to places where people sat on beach towels and ate ice cream and wiggled their toes in the hot sand and had all the time in the world to laugh and build sand castles and dream.
I was dressed inappropriately for the beach, of course, having come directly from the office, but I did not care. Once I had splashed a couple of my grandchildren, acting totally inappropriately for a grandma like I usually do, and they had splashed me back, my skirt would become bedraggled anyway, sort of like a wet dishrag.
I knew this, but still I did not care.
Summer! It is such a delicious season, full of so many good things, not the least of which is the unexpected sight of fireflies lighting up dark ditches, or a random cascade of wild roses, breathing a fragrance like no other into the life of summer.
Summer, of course, is not like a magic wand waved by some fairly godmother that makes adult stuff go away.
There is, and will always and forever be bills to pay, lawns to mow with cranky lawnmowers, laundry to finish, meals to cook, and work, endless and relentless, stretching on to forever.
And there will be not enough time in the day to get it all done, nights where much needed sleep won’t come and alarms that jolt the most peaceful dreamers back to reality.
But, for all of us, summer is kind of like an unwrapped gift holding moments gone in a flash but remembered for a lifetime.
My daughter and I and our parcel of kids troop into the ice cream store.
And the child who has somehow captured the blue of the summer sky for her eyes looked at me earnestly and said “strawberry, grandma, I want a strawberry ice cream cone.”
I smile. Without knowing it, she did it.
She gave me a memory.
I put the memory away, but no doubt, I will bring it out in again winter, when summer, once again, seems only a fantasy, far away and illusive.
“I think I’ll have strawberry, too,” I say. And it is good!
ON THE OTHER SIDE