Columns/Opinion, Irene Marinelli

Sweet memories of summer days gone by

July is here, that glorious month of summer.
In May we pulled away from winter’s hold to watch a new season awaken.
June brought a foretaste of summer’s glory with its abundance of roses, little tomato stalks stretching to warmth and sunlight, trees, newly leafed, tiptoeing to touch the sky.
Every day was filled to overflowing with new growth in the gardens and constant outside work.
Finally, in July, the merry-go-round stops spinning. The world moves at a slower pace and we can pause to look around us. All the garden flowers come into their own, offering up their colors and fragrance with abandon.
Now the summer nights are warm, often sultry. Twilight beckons us to relax on the patio, watch the birds fly home to their nests and look for the evening star in the darkening sky. Sitting quietly at sunset, memories of other summers often seem as real as yesterday.

When the children were very young, July was the prime month for going to the drive-in movie theater. In our family, going to the drive-in was an established and much enjoyed summer tradition; fun, wholesome entertainment at a very reasonable price. A regular movie theater charges each customer so much per ticket, while the beneficent drive-in charged by the car. In this way we could take a carload of children to the movies for the price of a single ticket.

The children would be bathed and dressed in their pajamas. Then Rob and I spread blankets and pillows in the back of the station wagon. A cooler filled with milk, sodas and snacks kept everyone happy.
If we got to the drive-in early enough our children could run down to the small play area to join other pajama-clad children and play until the movie screen lit up with the first cartoons. There were always several cartoons before the previews began. Long before the double feature was over, one by one our sleepy children would find a comfortable corner, snuggle into their pillows and let go of the day.

I wonder whatever happened to the drive-in movie theaters? They seem to have disappeared from our modern summers, along with cloud-watching on hot, still summer days and backyard star-gazing at night.
Cloud-watching requires no special skill, no equipment, just a blue sky, fluffy clouds and a good imagination. It’s interesting to listen as children describe what they see in the cloud shapes. Elephants and dinosaurs parade across the sky. Castles and fairies take shape. There are no limits to what the imaginative eye can see.

Lying on a blanket in the backyard, looking up at the limitless darkness of space, hung with myriad stars was another small summer wonder. Staying up so late past their bedtime was enough excitement for the children, even before a single star came out. Then, when night had truly darkened the sky, we spread our blanket on the grass. We all lie on our backs trying to find the easily identifiable constellations above us. The north star was our beacon, always there like a lighthouse in the sky, showing the way to other stars. A shooting star whizzing across the darkness was like a rare and special gift from the celestial night.

Many of these simple summer pleasures are relics of a past age. But let’s remember, the clouds are still there. So is the night sky. Swimming and picnics and watching a  TV movie together are simple pleasures.
What’s important is the fact that we enjoy these things together; summer memories in the making for the children in our lives.