I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, June 28, 2014

School's Out!

Hi guys! The last day of school finally arrived this past week. I haven't voluntarily set foot in a school in many happy years but the Last Day is always an exciting day for me--- it was always my very most favorite day of the school year.

For years I took special photos of my kids: wearing shorts, a new backpack, and a hopeful face on the first day of school, then another of the gleeful child, again in shorts, usually posed by the iris or rhododendrons, celebrating that final day ten long months later.
Schools here start at the old traditional time of after Labor Day, but classes go on all through June. My school was old-fashioned, observed that farm tradition of the kids having to be off for the planting season. So my school ended the Wednesday after Memorial. Yay!
Three glorious months of freedom.

We---my brother and I---didn't go to sleep away camp, or even regular day camp, but my parents always made summer's beginnings so fun. Silver dollars for good report cards! And always some kind of goofy game, like badminton or wiffle ball, from our dad.

One year an ancient croquet set appeared. Another time the summer game was a hilariously in retrospect lethal thing with hula hoop targets and huge heavy darts with sharp steel tips! (Maybe called Javelin Toss?) They were hard to throw so everyone survived. Another year we got an equally scary archery set. Then when we were older a small sailboat my dad built during the winter, in the garage.

Mostly we ran through the sprinkler, or later enjoyed the pool at the ''swim club''. Or we rode our bikes and skateboards. We liked unplanned games, like abandoned-field baseball and catching lightning bugs.

My mom had other ideas, as she was the person at home with us mostly. A favorite tradition was our summer book she and I read together. My mother liked to nap, a concept that to me was entirely out of the question, so she had the notion that after lunch each day we'd retire to chaise lounges on the brick patio [made by daddy] and read a chapter of our summer book. The patio was to me beautiful, made with recycled old pink bricks, edged by flower beds on one side and enclosed with an old green wrought iron fence and gate, on the other. I thought the fence looked like Roman spears. In June that fence was covered in fragrant pink climber roses and honeybees.

When I finished third grade, our book of the summer was Little Women [Louisa May Alcott]. I don't recall it too well anymore but at the time I loved it. Imagine having sisters! Four of them!
We'd read a chapter then mom would doze off. After a week or so that bored me and I read the entire book by myself, much to mom's dismay. After that I was on my own: favorites I recall were the Narnia series [C S Lewis; fifth grade summer] and Little House on the Prairie series [Laura Ingalls Wilder]. I also loved my mom's vintage Nancy Drew collection, then things like A Gift from the Sea , by Anne Morrow Lindberg, though I suppose I didn't understand it; mysteries by Mary Stewart and Mary Renault, and classics like Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, by Daphne DuMaurier.

today's Gift from the Sea

Both my parents were good at teaching without being teachy. My dad taught me to embroider, then to machine sew, and to quilt; less popular were lessons in fishing and fence painting. My mother did art lessons with me, quite technical, shading for volume, perspective. Then my dad taught me to oil paint.

Probably what I loved best---and why I became a fashion designer?--- was the exciting treat of a trip into the city to a special department store which back then sold beautiful cottons and wools. I'd get a "good haircut'' [hopeless]; have lunch with Mother or daddy, then I'd be allowed to choose as many as six tiny 1/4 yard cuts of cotton lawn or calico, to make dresses for my wooden antique Hitty doll. No Barbie for me, sigh. I loved that doll and still have her in her old cedar trunk. The tiny clothes aren't made so well. But I was only 7 or 8, or ten.....


Later in the summer we'd dry lavender and make sachets. Yes, just like I make now, though since my mom did not sew we made tiny hanky bundles. We'd can tomatoes, make pickles. Or a pie. Most summers included cooking lessons: from how to bake a potato [''400 degrees for forty minutes''] to classic meat sauce or marinara sauce and eggplant parmesan. My mother wrote out each recipe by hand in a red gingham covered spiral notebook which I still have and use. [Basic cooking temps, how to prep a turkey. Potatoes Dauphine. Apple tartin. A fail: salad nicoise, eeew. Like I would actually eat fishy stuff? My dad's specialty was deep fried donuts! Imagine that. And one year we made deep fried onion rings with all the extra onions from the garden. Beer batter. Awesome.

powder puff clouds

Reflections of powder puff clouds

Reflections of powder puff clouds
I loved how the thin film of the receding waves
mirrored the clouds in the sky...

And so another summer begins. What will the long days bring to me this year? Let us hope better health than last year.

How about you? What is your favorite memory from from childhood summers? Do you enjoy summer now, or is it just hot and annoying? Tell me!

gone to the beach............

Hitty- Her First Hundred Years  [I wasn't too happy to read that it has been ''updated'', rewritten and an oh so trendy Civil War chapter added. Poor Hitty! But I suppose I must buy a copy and see what ''they'' have done to my beloved story book.


  1. Your Summers sound wonderful with your Mum all to yourself. Reading was always great. Anne of Green Gables and the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, Enid Blyton. Going on holiday to the beach was a treat and I would swim in the sea all day. I agree with you, the best day of school was the last one.

    1. Oh yes, lovely books on your list. I loved Anne of Green Gables!

  2. What fun memories! I don't have many actually, just lots of summertime camping, fishing and hiking. I LOVE summer and I love it when it's hot!

  3. I was one of the weird kids who actually didn't LIKE the last day of school. Not that I liked the classes so much, but I loved the library. Our town didn't have one, just a bookmobile that didn't bring NEAR enough books to keep me supplied. I had fun in the summer - playing in the creek and the woods, turning somersaults in the big yard, etc - but it also meant working in the garden, bug bites and bee stings... Now, although I like my flowers, mostly summer is just too hot and humid for me to enjoy. We don't have much shade here! And no cool ocean water to cool off in. Lots of chiggers and mosquitos, though.

    1. We had a Bookmobile too! So fun, I oved that. And our library was a bit of a drive but wonderful, the ladies were even fairly nice. Probably bec no one was ever able to be rude to my mom who exuded enthusiasm and charm. We went to the library evry week, on Tuesday night, no clue why that was the day/ time. I dont remember my brother coming along but he too read a lot so I m sure he was there. My mom had a vintage Ford convertibel, w e d drive with the top down.

      The best part was the librarians did not limit our selections, we could take as many books as we liked. And like you, I read a LOT.

  4. Your childhood summers sound magical, and your parents lovely. Are afternoon naps still out of the question, or have you learned to appreciate them?

    It's nice hearing about everyone's summer memories. I had to give it some thought, for some reason I don't remember a lot from when I was a kid. We did always have at least one big crab feast with the family every year, usually at our house. My Dad would steam the crabs himself and it wasn't unusual for us kids to have to chase down a runaway crab. My Dad's sister and her family lived very close to the Chesapeake Bay, so a get together at their house was always exciting. Not only did they have a boat but they had a pool too! We were like fish. For a time, our parents would take us kids to stay with our grandparents for a week which must have been hell on my grandmother, but heaven for my parents. When my brothers and sister got old enough that they didn't want to go anymore, I still did and it was WONDERFUL. My grandmother and I would go to the fancy department store where I was allowed to pick out a new Nancy Drew book, and we would have lunch at the counter in the store's restaurant. Oh, and we used to walk around our little town selling tomatoes that our Dad grew in his garden. Also, like you and Melody, there was a lot of time spent reading. I love that feeling of looking forward to reading a good book. Huh, I remember more than I thought I did.

    I look forward to hearing about your adventures over the next couple of months. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Love the Chesapeake crab boil and chasing the wayward escapees! Such a specific MD tradition! On the Cape we'd do lobster boils and clambakes instead, and in the midwest someone always was doing BBQ pork, which is like pulled pork on the grill?
    And you went like me to the fancy store for a treat, in your case a new Nancy Drew! And did the lunch thing too! So special. [did you save your Nancy Drew books?]

    And no I never learned to nap. I only sleep in the afternoons or evenings if I am very very ill and probably not even then...lol.

  6. Small world huh? We all come from different places, but have such similar traditions and experiences.

    We lent my Nancy Drew collection to my younger cousin and never saw them again. Not sure if she kept them or if, shudder, they were given or thrown away.


  7. What a beautiful post. I recall lots of summer reading. Also, a fair bit of sewing doll clothes. Thank you for sharing.


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