Smells like summer

During the summer when I was a kid, my mom would take an old glass baby food jar, poke holes in the top and give it to me and my brother. We’d run outside around the backyard barefoot, catching as many lightning bugs as possible. You may call them “fireflies,” but my momma always called them lightning bugs. Zach and I would search high and low for these little black beetles as they flew around our heads. We’d keep them in a see-thru container so we could watch the light show that highlighted my summers as a child.

I remember seeing them light up the night for a couple months every year, extending those long days of summer sunlight. I distinctly remember the funky smell they’d release if you shook them up too much, a simple but effective form of self-defense. I can hear my younger brother’s laugh as we pointed to the next spot of flashing light and raced to find the bug.

I have many happy memories of my childhood during summer. For some reason, the summer memories stayed the most crisp in my mind. They feel fresh like they could have happened yesterday. It also may be due to the fact that my brother’s birthday starts summer in June and my birthday nears the end of summer in August. We bookmark our favorite months of the year with a celebration of another year well-lived.

From glasses of sun-steeped tea to running in the sprinkler, our summers were filled with downtime, lake house trips and canoe rides.

My dad would take us fishing in the summer. He’d pack up everyone’s tackle box and pole. We’d get worms from the gas station or we’d dig them up ourselves. He carefully tied the bobber on our line, pierced the worm on the hook and taught us how to cast out. We’d just sit there waiting to get a bite, to see the bobber go under the water. It’s funny because I don’t remember actually catching any fish. That’s likely improbable. The thing I remember most is simply standing there with my dad and my brother. Hot and sticky, we’d stay for what felt like hours. I can smell the freshwater pond, hear the little plop splash in the water as the bobber casts out, the click as I reel in the pole just a bit. I can see the little red and white plastic ball sitting on a still body of water. Waiting. Always waiting.

I often wonder if Leigh will remember certain things we do together during summer. Only time will tell what really sticks in his memory. Will it be the baseball games we took him to? The walks to town to get Dairy Queen on a nice day? Will he remember what sweet peas taste like when he picks them fresh from the vine? Or throwing a tennis ball for Barry in the backyard? I hope he remembers the feeling of adventure we tried to instill. The sense this is a special time for our family to experience together.

There are only eighteen summers of childhood. We don’t remember all of them. But collectively, I hope you have nostalgic feelings about the summers you experienced.

View of Leigh “climbing the mountain” of our backyard berm with his Minecraft sword (Summer 2022).

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