Writing Out Loud:
A Summer Time Some Time Ago

By George Stahl, Special to the Sun

Those wonderful dog days of summer are here! Finally, after cold, windy days and almost freezing nights, the weather has turned into a real tropical sort of heat. Some of you are probably saying, ‘No! I don’t like the heat. I want the cooler weather’. 

Well, I hear Alaska’s pretty nice this time of year. Right now, it’s 50 degrees with a wind chill of 48 in Fairbanks. If that’s not cold enough for you, Antarctica is enjoying a delightful minus 3 degrees with clouds. Go for it, knock yourself out. Go for the summertime chill! Right here at home, we’re basking in a fantastically warm, 95 to100 degrees average day! Ahhh…summer.

Remember what summer meant when you were a kid?  No school, for sure, just like all of the kids in the valley now, but it also meant a sense of freedom we looked forward to all year. Freedom from homework, freedom from having to get up early and walk around the house like a zombie getting ready for the busy day.

Freedom to hang out with your friends and do nothing if you wanted to. Then, someone yelled, ‘Let’s get a game together!’ That was all it took, and it was on. There was a sandlot somewhere with your band of screaming banshees’ name on it. Even if you could only muster up a handful of kids, there was going to be a baseball game played that hot afternoon on your block.

Not every day, though was a baseball day. Some were tag days, others, kick the can days and every once in a while, a mow the lawn day would creep in, just to keep you honest and your dad off your tail.

Every year you could count on those summers being packed with days of Little League and popcorn or hot dogs, long bike rides on a country road, or a game of Army in a small, wooded area at the end of the street, complete with fallen logs and tree forts. That field became any field in the world at different times. It was amazing how big it seemed back then, that 50 foot by 200-foot empty lot.

Summer also meant, longer days, which meant the street lights would take longer to turn on. The ones that marked your curfew time imposed by your mom, ’Be sure to head for home when the street lights go on.’ She’d tell you every day as you left the house. That and ‘Did you get all of your chores done?’ were her two most said summertime request.

For whatever reason, summer seemed like the only time you had ‘chores’. You can still hear her at times in that part of your mind where things like that sound almost like a whisper.  Anyway, because of the later sunlit days, those neighborhood street lights took longer to come on, and you’d be able to stay out until just past dark, and still feel safe enough to ride your bike home around a quarter to eight.

Now, for some of us those days were over fifty years ago, and for some even more, but when the weather changes, when the days grow longer and the heat sets in, they can seem as if they were really not that long ago. All it takes to trigger them in your mind is a familiar smell, the feel of the hot sun on your face, or something that catches your attention, out of the corner of your eye.

Maybe it’s the taste of something that brings your mind right back to that day you were riding your bike on the tar and gravel street in front of your house.

Whatever it is that does it for you, cherish it. Let it take you back to those days, even if it’s only for a second or two. Relish that feeling it gives you, and try to remember those summers, sometime ago, and why, although you may not love the heat now, at one time in your life, it meant a great deal more than just a weather pattern.

Now, go out and have a Popsicle, even if you are having the sugar free ones these days, and just be sure to head for home when the street lights come on.