As we roll the clocks back and get our extra hour of sleep, it is also the reminder that another summer has come to an end. With the expanded daylight savings time of a few years ago, the connection between daylight savings time and summer has been weakened. However, I live in San Diego so I’ve been able to maintain a strong sense of that connection. The summer of 2012 was fantastic, and the end of it comes with some melancholy, but the memories will always be right there, as long as I am. So this morning, I left the phone attached to it’s charger, didn’t check my email, my blog stats, or my Facebook news feed. I turned on some acoustic music and thought back to summers past. I’ve had a few!
My earliest memory of summer was 1964, I was 3 and the memory is dim and to be frank, questionable. I remember a sand box under a large tree, some small toys, and a warm summer breeze through the tree branches. Not much, but a good memory. My memories of the summer of 1965 are much clearer and there are two days that are very clear. Actually the first day is probably a combination of multiple summer days that I have crowded together into one day. We lived in an apartment below a wooded hill. My memories of those woods are much clearer than my memories of the inside of the apartment. Inside the apartment I remember a set of stairs from the top floor, actually the main living area, to the downstairs, and a classic 1950/60’s style vinyl couch – gold or green colored I believe, with a texture like coarsely woven cloth. I remember running my fingernail over the cloth to hear the buzzing sound. I don’t think it was in the main living room, seems more like a play area, but as I said my memories of the apartment are dim.
The woods above the Riverside Apartments were my playground the summer of my fourth year. I remember spending whole days in those woods, my sister bringing lunch into the woods for me. Of course that meant that I also was also forced to find some interesting uses for the leaves in those woods, but I’ll skip that part of the story. The hill was steep, and the trees were of varying size. I don’t remember any one tree, or any really large “climbing” trees, but I remember the trails, formed largely by the erosion and the shape of the exposed tree roots, forming flat areas, chairs, tables, and plenty of areas to scramble around. I remember the sound of tree leaves softly rattling in the breeze. The one day that consolidates all the other days of that summer was the day I chose to explore higher up the hill than I had ever been before. It was very late summer, possibly even early fall, and I remember distinctly that when I came to the top of the hill I thought I had climbed to heaven. There were swings, a big slide and a large open grassy area. Definitely heaven. There was no one else around, so it was my own private playground. Unfortunately, it was not to last though. Before long a huge crowd of kids came running from a nearby building. I was cool with that, kids to play with! They were a little older though. Unfortunately there were also a couple adults, they didn’t look much like angels, and it didn’t take long for them to realize that I didn’t belong. I was kicked out of heaven with extreme prejudice. I don’t remember the trip back down the hill but I’m sure there were tears. I’m also pretty sure that after I choked out my story of being kicked out of heaven to my Mom, that she knew right away what had happened. I had not been in heaven, just the playground of the elementary school that my older sister attended which happened to be right at the top of that hill.
The other day I remember from that summer was very different. I had a tendency, at a very early age, to be independent. I alone quite often and I’m sure I had no sense of what my limits were. On this particular day I remember being bored, my Mom was gone, and my Dad working on a car. I wanted to visit Grandma, so I asked Dad if we could go. He said I could go later. I’m not sure if 5 minutes later seemed like “later” to me, of if I just decided I didn’t need my Dad to take me to Grandma’s, but after a few minutes I started the trek to Grandma’s house. There were a couple of different ways to get to Grandma’s house. Both of them involved a walk of over 5 miles and crossing 3 or 4 bridges. I picked the one that would have also taken me along the one stretch of four lane divided highway just outside my home town. The walk started by crossing a very cool older metal framework bridge, the Bennett Viaduct, that spanned across the Des Moines river and the rest of the valley on the north side of the river. Half-way across the old bridge was a ramp that would allow cars to drive down to the valley area on the north side of the bridge. The picture at the top of the post is a digital image of an old postcard (see note below) that shows the bridge. After I crossed the Bennett Viaduct, I crossed 2nd Avenue South and turned left to cross the four lane 2nd Avenue bridge on my way to Iowa State Highway 169. As I approach the on-ramp to the north bound 4-lane section of 169 toward my Grandma’s house a very nice lady stopped and picked me up. For some reason she insisted that I go with her instead of continuing my trip. Although I had walked to this point I guess I was unable to explain how to take me home, so she offered me an apple (she was heading home from the store), and took me to the Police Station. The rest is a little fuzzy, but I do remember being set onto a counter at the Police station and offered a soda. Some how they determined who I was and contacted my parents. Probably best that I don’t remember the next few hours! But a terrific memory of a unique summer day.
There are many other summer days from that point to today, but I’ll leave those for another post (or fifty). Now it is time to leave memory lane and check a few things off of my “Honey Do list”.
Note: I’m not sure of the origin of the postcard. It was posted on a hometown message board. The Bennett Viaduct was built in 1911 and taken down in 1981. It was a very interesting bridge and I would love to be able to walk across it today.