We interrupt this week’s news to bring you the sounds of summer.
One of the nicest sounds of my childhood summer was the motorized drone of my dad’s lawnmower as he finished up the backyard outside my window. That meant it was a weekend, and as soon as dad came inside and showered there would be pancakes!
Soon after, we’d all go to the neighborhood pool.
After splashing water on my brothers for an hour or two, I would stretch out on my towel to dry.
I would lie there, eyes closed, while the hubbub continued around me — small children yelling; teenagers shrieking and laughing; the splashes of people doing cannonballs off the diving board, which started with the metallic wobble of the board as it bounced in place, after someone had leapt off it; a short period of silence; and then the splash; and of course the lifeguard’s whistle that meant someone had broken another rule.
It all fades to a reassuring background as I fall asleep in the sun. Time enough, hours later, to realize I had forgotten to use what we called “sun tan oil.”
When I joined swim team, there were early morning weekday practices. First thing in the morning, the pool water was still, and smooth as glass— and freezing cold. But you hardly noticed that after your first dive in and set of laps.
Swim meets brought more whistle-blowing. They also brought the sharp ripping sound of a deck of cards being shuffled, for yet another round of the team’s endless game of “Hearts.” I never learned the game, but at least I came away knowing how to shuffle cards like a pro.
After too many laps, I would bicycle home, thoroughly exhausted, and fall asleep in the backyard.
I awaken to the high-pitched whine of a mosquito in my ear. It must be lost. Why would it hover there? Just to tease me?
Might as well get up and water the garden. There’s a metallic squeaking while I turn the faucet, and then the hiss of water through the hose as I direct it at thirsty tomato plants.
I’d better look out for the bees. When an overlooked peach falls from our tree and sits in the sun, it will be covered with bees.
Dad insists the bees are harmless, drowsy and drunk as they are on fermented peach juice; still, they will react if your bare footsteps on them. That’s why flip-flops are a must.
Out in the street, boys use clothespins to attach playing cards to a bicycle. They think they’re making it sound like a motorcycle.
To me, it just sounds like someone wearing flip-flops — which must be why I thought it was a great idea to dangle one foot near the front wheel of the bike I was riding.
Oops! The flip-flop got twisted off while I was thrown to the ground, my aggrieved bicycle on top of me. The result was a lovely collection of bruises.
There were vacations, of course, and car trips. Sometimes we visited a cabin on a lake. That meant the sound of someone letting the screen door slam – and the exasperated sigh of an adult who had just said not to do that!
There was the “shush” of leaves moving in the breeze. There was the gentle sound of fish leaping from the water, mocking folks who had been out trying to catch them all afternoon.
There was the tinny sound of a transistor radio, at night, carrying far across the water and bringing the distinctive sound of a baseball bat hitting a ball, to the cheers of a crowd hundreds of miles away.
Other times we visited grandparents in Brooklyn, New York. We kids were sent to bed before sundown, and fell asleep to the murmur of adults chatting on the terrace outside our window. There was also the clink of ice cubes as they swirled glasses of whatever they were drinking.
No summer was complete without a trip to the beach. Big waves crashed and thundered up the sand, but sometimes snuck up quietly, with only the hiss of foam on their retreat to give them away. Children scream and laugh, mixed in with the cries of seagulls who are wheeling and swooping and looking to steal some french fries. More waves, more seagulls. The sun is nice and warm, perfect for dozing off….
Here’s wishing all of us a happy summer.