The Best Summers

My super men.

Today I wanted it to be super summery, a really hot and sunny day. I have a swimming lesson this afternoon, Rory’s at sailing camp after being invited by a friend and we’re having dinner and another swim tonight with those friends. These things will all still happen, however because of the lack of sun and cooler temperatures, I might now have much feeling left in my fingers and toes by the end of the day.

And I feel kind of sick and my back hurts. So right now I’m in bed after trying to have a nap, it didn’t work. But it’s cozy under my quilt and the wind in the trees outside my open window is lovely and it’s dark and cool. It’s got me thinking of some of my favourite summers.

When I was small we went to cottages every summer. We didn’t own one, but my grandfather who worked for Chrysler, would rent one from a friend or co -worker each year. The best ones were in Sauble Beach, or maybe those were just the ones we went to most often and when I was older so I remember them most. Or maybe my memories are from a combination of many summers, it doesn’t matter.

I remember lakes that I loved, learning to swim with a small inflatable mattress with a picture of E.T. on it. My grandfather, my Boppa, who loved the summers and the lakes as much as I did, was always there with me in the water. Today, I can’t stand waist high in a lake and have the waves push me forward, without thinking of him, without missing him.

He taught me to play catch at cottages. We spent hours outside the front of one home, surrounded by a wooden porch where we threw a baseball back and forth while watching squirrels fight over the peanuts he’d left along the top of the railings. Queen Anne’s Lace surrounded us, acting as back catcher for when his throw went sailing past. I still know I can throw and catch a ball pretty well though, thanks to his constant praise. Boppa never said five words if two would do, so I’d hold tight to them because they meant so much.

I remember driving into towns, restaurants for pop and pizza subs, penny candies and Teen Beat Magazines. One had a centerfold of a young Michael J Fox which I left open on my bed, loving the thought of Alex P Keaton waiting around just for me.

I remember cool mornings and new pjs and Dr Seuss books leftover on a bookshelf. The smell of new crayons in plastic containers that snapped closed and you could carry around by a handle. Mine was red and the inside was black, a special slot for each crayon, possibly some circles of paint and a few brushes. My favourite crayon for was always Blue- Green, the only one worn down to a nub by the end of the summer.

I remember antique stores and collecting tiny glass animal figurines and one summer Flintstone figures my sister and I would line up on the table between our single beds. The beds we slept soundly in each night, only learning years later of the mouse infestation one summer than kept our adults wide awake.

But it’s Boppa that means summer to me the most. Even when cottages stopped and I was an adult, summer was the smell of his pots of basil and the tomatoes he grew on his own deck. The way I understand, only as an adult, how unhappy the winters made him, how much pain his legs were in as he got older, and how the summers were more than a relief for him, but a solace. Sitting in his chair with a book we’d both read and talk about later and a rum and coke. Making us burgers for dinner with fresh tomatoes he’d grown himself.

He’s gone now, he died almost four years ago, and we don’t go to cottages with our kids. I’d love to but it’s hard for different reasons, it doesn’t matter. And as I get older, I find the summers hard, the heat is sometimes just too much. But today, an overcast, cool day that didn’t start out feeling so summery, has left me feeling nostalgic and so grateful for some of the best summer memories of my life. And for Boppa.

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