Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer Memories

As we approach the end of another school year I see posts on Facebook about favorite summer memories. In fact I was responding to my best friend, Lori's, status post when I began writing this entry. When it grew to such lengths I decided my "short" story was no longer a status comment, but a blog post! So I moved to this venue to continue running (as I used to do as a child on occasion) down memory lane.

For me the summer memories that stand out the most were of going to my Granny and PaPa's house in Port Lavaca, TX. My cousins, Charlotte and Cynthia were always there. They had the advantage of living in nearby Bloomington with my Uncle William and my Aunt Jenny. In my Granny and PaPa's backyard we had a really cool tree house built high up in a tree next to their huge garden. Their yard was surrounded by Purple Martin bird houses he would build in his garage workshop (I remember getting into BIG trouble one time for flipping a switch discovered at the end at the end of a table. Said switch turned on the circular saw and caused a big stink for some reason. I can't remember who was there at the time, but the punishment was multiplied by the fear of how bad it COULD have been!).

We had regular playmates whenever we went to Granny and PaPa's. I remember a Bradley and another boy. One lived next door and the other across the street. Granny would open the garage door (only the left one though - PaPa's workshop was on the right) and we could play outside running between the front and back yards by passing through the garage. I remember running around the house to the backyard through a gate on the left side of the house one time and stepping on a pitch fork. I can still picture my little foot, clad in a light green tennis shoe with dark green racing stripes, being impaled. That particular trip seemed to be one of many where blood was involved!

I can still picture our room at Granny and PaPa's house. We had two twin beds, very girl beds, with a chest of drawers in between. The closet held Granny's afghans and our toys. I always wanted to sleep in the bed right inside the door. This way I could see the large window over the other bed. I remember one time I had to sleep in the other bed and I was so scared something was going to get me. The shadows that were made on the wall by the passing cars frightened me terribly. I still remember being awake for the majority of that night. I don't think I ever slept in that bed again!

I remember sitting in the garage of my grandparents house. You had to walk out through the kitchen. There was a little concrete ramp leading from the door down toward PaPa's workshop. I remember sitting on the little ledge with Granny and talking. She would tell me stories about my Daddy and my Aunt Jenny that would make me laugh so hard I would wet my pants. This happened on MANY occasions. I always seemed to be changing my clothes when I was at their house.

As you opened the screen door leading from the kitchen into the garage, Granny's washing machine was to the right. She would place her bread on top of the washing machine to rise. I remember going by one time and plopping my hand down on top of the cloth covered bread asking, "What's this?" We had flattened bread for dinner that night and I learned never to touch the top of the washing machine when it had something cloth covered on top.

I loved going to the beach and picking up shells with Granny. We would walk barefoot along the water and pick up shells. I'm not really sure which beach we would go to, but I do remember walking a number of times with Granny and Daddy at Indianola. It was one of  Daddy's favorite places and still holds fond memories for me, especially the Oleander bushes. I remember swimming in the bay water, but one of the memories that is strongest in my mind when it comes to the water was the time a large wave came up and over took me. I was little and I remember being pulled under the water. I can still picture my Aunt Jenny grabbing me up from under the water. I don't think I would be here writing this blog entry today if it had not been for her quick reaction.

A huge part of my summer memories are about our annual family reunion. I remember watching the ladies, especially my Aunt June, Aunt Dorris, Aunt Jenny and Granny, lay out the food on the tables (ping pong and pool). My favorite dishes, Cousin Becky's shrimp salad, Aunt June's chocolate sheet cake, Granny's coconut cream and pecan pies, and Cousin Venice's Chicken & Noodles ~ NOT dumplings - there is a difference!!  I remember PaPa sitting either at one of the long tables in the back of the building or in one of the little rooms playing dominoes. There was always a large group of people sitting outside (smoking) on the picnic tables, not at them, but on them! I also remember everyone getting into position to take the large group picture outside on the slanted lawn of the facility, and the individual family shots taken at the picnic tables.

Our reunion was always the highlight of the summer because not only did I get to see Charlotte and Cynthia, but I got to see even more cousins! Our reunions were held in a large facility owned by Union Carbide. It was (and still is) located outside of Victoria, near Seadrift (we only recently stopped using this facility when the last of our family members retired from Carbide). We (Charlotte, Cynthia, Stoney, Scott, Angie, and myself) used to have a very special meeting place - the lounge of the women's restroom! It was an awesome meeting place, especially because not only did it have an entry from the hall of the building, but it also had a getaway door leading to the front of the building. We wouldn't get into as much trouble for running in and out of the building - with our water guns - because no one could see us! We had a blast with the water guns. I have to admit I was a bit devastated when we all grew out of the water gun stage.

I remember being scared to go down onto the deck built out from the waterway past the playground.  I think I might have only gone down there one time. Alligators lived int eh water and I was terrified of being caught! Others were much braver than I and would anxiously run down there to SEE if they could spot one! Still crazy to me to go looking for alligators.

I remember how sad I would be at the end of the reunion. It meant we would be leaving the coast and all of the fun we had playing together. I would cry myself to sleep in the backseat of the car on the six hour drive back to north Texas knowing it would be a long time until I got to see the two people (Charlotte and Cynthia) who were as close to sisters as I, an only child, would ever have while growing up. I still have these feelings of sadness when we part ways and I always loved seeing our children (when they were little) respond in the same manner at the end of the reunion.

I do have summer memories of family trips, mostly to courthouses, libraries, and cemeteries ~ you have to understand my dad is not only a librarian but a lifelong genealogist. We didn't spend summer vacations going to Disney because there was no one buried in California or Florida! Don't get me wrong. I had an awesome time as a child during those summer trips, it was just not what most people would call normal.While my dad would be working in the courthouse looking through birth / death records or reading microfilm, my mom and I would go on little adventures. I remember watching little town parades, going to circuses, visiting large businesses when they had factory tours, and even going to the Grand Opening of a Popeye's Chicken restaurant in one town.We would also spend a great deal of time in the children's section of the libraries. One  librarian even pulled a cart full of books for my mom to read to me one time because the children's section would close long before the rest of the library.

As I got older I would go on bus tours with my MorMor (Swedish for mother's mother). We traveled the east coast and the west coast together on these trips. I think the longest one we were on was three weeks. I went to Disneyland for the first (and actually only time) on one of these bus trips. I was enchanted by the Texas Show at Palo Duro Canyon and Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Theater, mesmerized by Las Vegas (still my ONLY trip to Sin City ~ I was 15!), and toured Graceland for the first time during these wonderful trips.

I also remember the excitement of going to the public library as soon as possible to register for the Summer Reading Program. I always wanted to see how many books I could read during the summer. I wanted to fill up the list as quickly as possible. I still keep a record of the books I read. I wish I had been as disciplined then as I am now during the entire year and not just during the summer. I guess it is so much easier now because we can keep track of our books through great sites like Goodreads and Shelfari. The Summer Reading Program helped me to become a lifelong reader. Now understand it is not the only reason I remain a reader to this day. My parents had a HUGE impact on my love of reading - remember, Daddy is a librarian and Moma a teacher. I remember a few years ago the library began having an Adult Summer Reading Program (not ADULT, but for adults!). You would have thought I was a kid again. I ran up there to sign up on the first day!

I have always been in school, first as a student and now as a professional educator (Librarian / Instructional Technology Specialist to be exact). So summer has always been to me what most people remember from childhood. The anticipation at the end of May for all of the exciting adventures to come during the months between the end of one school year and the beginning of another. This year, however, has been very different for me. I have actually been very ill for the past few weeks. The school year ended abruptly for me on May 13th. I haven't had the thrill of the anticipation for the summer. I have just been trying to get through each day. Now, don't feel sorry for me, that is not what I am asking for. I am just trying to convey that this is the first time in my 42 years that I have not felt the thrill and excitement (and sadness for friends, teachers, and students to which I have grown so close to each year) of the end of the school year.

Could it also be the fact that my only child will be graduating in four days? When my dad picked my son up yesterday from his last full day of high school I asked him to take a picture of  my son walking to the car. Another milestone to record in the ever growing stacks of pictures to include in his scrapbook. I guess, if I look back over the years, this is the one summer I have NOT been anticipating my entire life.

A new chapter will begin soon for all of us as my son goes off to freshman orientation (in SPAIN!) and then moves out of our home into his dorm in the coming months. My son will be experiencing wonderful adventures that can only be enjoyed through the college experience. My husband and I will be able to reconnect as a "couple" after being "parents" for 17 years. My parents, who will be going to breakfast on their own, all be it at whatever time they choose and always on time! We can look at this time in two very different ways. We can be sad, like when losing a loved one, or we can be excited for the new, wonderful things that are ahead for the young man that has blossomed from our nurturing all of these years. With tears running down my cheeks, I choose to be joyful. I see so such great potential in his life. Why should I be selfish and sad? I am not losing my little boy, merely allowing him to take flight on the wings we have helped him to grow.

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