Who doesn’t love a perfect summer day?
When I was a kid, summer was filled with adventures and sunshine. I’m sure it rained, but all I can remember are long, lazy days where pirates were fought and the Bronte sisters shared my afternoon tea. The Brontes were, of course, perfect imaginary companions. I am blessed to have led an idyllic childhood with parents who adored me and encouraged me to head outdoors and explore the farms that surrounded us. I can’t remember a single threat other than watching the traffic when I crossed Brown Road.
Everyday was an adventure, sometimes shared with a neighborhood pal or cousin. If I was lucky and they had the time, my older siblings would show me the places they explored when they were my age. But many days, I would simply take off and find out what was going on around the neighborhood. I loved going visiting, especially with Mrs. Jennings.
Mrs. Jennings was a lovely petite woman with beautiful white hair that was always properly pinned. I never saw her in hair curlers or wearing an unpressed apron. While I probably had muddy shoes or leaves sticking out of my hair, I always used my best manners when I visited her. I somehow just knew to sit up straight and cross my dirt-caked ankles.
She never treated me like the child that I was. We had grand visits together where she’d offered me lemonade or iced tea and we would talk about her garden or the neighborhood news. Mrs. Jennings grew the sweetest strawberries I ever tasted. Without fail, she’d bring me one of her first pints because she knew how much I loved them. I think it’s rather funny now, but I always called her “Mrs. Jennings.” And yet her husband, whom I equally loved, was simply “Sam.” He was one of my favorite farming buddies, who always waved whenever he drove past on his tractors.
They lived in a charming white-clad house across a couple of fields from our farm along a one-lane country gravel road. When I was in the 3rd grade, they moved to the other side of Hopkins County. My mother would often drive over to their new house just so I could visit. But it wasn’t the same; Mrs. Jennings knew it and so did I. But like all proper ladies, our tears never showed.
Many of my childhood summer days couldn’t properly start until I knew what was going on at my maternal grandmother’s house or at my great-aunt’s house. Sometimes all you had to do was just sit outside and listen, as they used the time-honored communication method of hollering out their back doors. They had a sing-song method of greeting each other every morning. Sometimes our mother got in on the act and joined their song. From those lyrical conversations, you knew that everybody had made it through the night and what were their plans for the day.
My only summer plans were to improve my softball abilities, avoid working in our mother’s garden, and find out what was in the cave down by the creek. My brother always talked about the cave, but I never found it. I am positive that it doesn’t exist — or if it does, it was only a hollowed out place along the creek bank. But he always made it sound like Mammoth Cave started behind our farm. Brothers.
Slowly each perfect summer day melted into the next and before I wanted, the Hopkins County Fair would start during the hottest days of July. After the fair, it seemed that summer fast forwarded into back-to-school shopping and then Bobby Ashby would arrive at our house driving faithful bus number 7, ready to take me back to Hanson School.
But until that yellow school bus appeared at our corner, I made the most every perfect summer day.