Occasionally my mind opens up its picture album and diary and I get to re-experience some long-ago scenes. Mid-summer, during my childhood, was a time that I savored. I would say that I was what was known then as a "tom-boy", climbing trees where I’d hang by my knees or sit nestled where a comfy limb joined the tree’s main trunk, and read a book or eat berries. I vividly remember, though, that when I occasionally wore pants instead of a dress (little girls mostly wore dresses when I was a child), I’d always make sure I had a ribbon in my hair or laced into my shoes, to indicate to people that I was a girl (in case they failed to notice my long, braided hair, which boys of that time did not wear).
Many a summer evening, my mother would send me out into the yard to pick dandelion greens for salad. I think my father tried his hand at making dandelion wine. I recall that, at that time and place, dandelions were not disdained or poisoned – they were eaten and made into wine; sometimes they were just welcomed as part of the lawn, for their cheerful flowers and the fuzzy seed heads that we children loved to play with. I still like dandelions.
Often my father would enlist my help with his huge garden and he would teach me about plants and their care. My mother had been a "city girl", but she had adapted to life in the country. From mid-July on through September, she would spend days at a time in the kitchen, canning vegetables and fruit that would be stored in a special room in our basement. The basement was old-style, as the house had been built in 1938. It had places where coal chutes had been, before the heating system had been converted from coal to oil. The basement was spooky, even after I’d become an adult. My mother loved to make things out of cement. Making her own wooden forms, she fashioned many little "steps" and garden edgings, and even dug and cemented (sides and bottom) of a children’s pool, which I’d say was about 8'x10' and perhaps almost (an uneven) 3' in depth.
Lest this all appear to be a picture-book scene, I need to add that we always seemed to have an over-abundance of visitors – my parents’ friends, relatives, acquaintances – sometimes the house was like a train station; it also had its share of quarrels and the air was always blue with cigarette smoke. I didn’t mind the visitors much, except for when my cousins would be there for a day or several days. They were fun for the first hour or so, but would interfere with my treasured hours at the piano. Sometimes I would find my solitude and escape by getting "lost" on the property, usually in a tree.
Twice per summer, my mother would take me to the beach, which I loved. It was only about 25 or 30 minutes away by car, but that was before she got her driver’s license, so we had to travel by bus. When you travel by bus, it seems like a long journey.
Of course, there was always the possibility of one of the year-round music performances that my mother had me booked for. Some of them involved real travel; some of them were back-to-back. They were kind of the reassuring bits of punctuation, sprinkled across the scenes I’ve just described, sort of a reaffirmation – of what, I’m not sure. It sometimes felt like I was living two lives.
Funny how each season has memories that can tiptoe across that threshold; how all those threads are firmly woven together.