Tuesday, June 16, 2015

You Had to be There - A Summer Memory by Roseanne Dowell

Summer is a magical time in the life of a child and it was no less for me. I’ve always loved summer, especially in the fifties when I was young and carefree. It was a time of happiness and
contentment.  Secure in the love of my family, I enjoyed the summer days and nights.  We spent the days riding bikes, playing kick the can, hide and seek, baseball, and tag.  It’s so clear in my mind, it could have been yesterday instead of fifty plus years ago. 
My memories go back to warm summer days in Cleveland, Ohio.  Days spent waiting anxiously for my father to come home from work.  At the first sign of nice weather, my mother brought out the picnic basket. Every day in the nice weather, she packed it and had it ready to go.
While Dad washed up, we packed the car and before you knew it, we were on our way to our special place, Lagoon, named for the small lake nearby, Actually more like a pond.. The name sounded spooky, probably because in 1954 the movie Creature From the Black Lagoon was so popular. Not that I ever saw it, I didn't and still don’t care to. Spooky movies and I don’t get along.
We jumped out of the car and immediately begin gathering kindling while Mom and Dad brought the picnic basket and cooler to the table. No charcoal for us, wood was free and plentiful. After picking up the smaller twigs, we ran towards the woods looking for larger branches to use for firewood and. long skinny sticks for roasting marshmallows after dinner. Mom crumpled up old newspaper and started the fire and let Dad relax. She added the larger wood as the fire started smoldering.
My brothers, sisters, and I bickered and competed to see who could break the larger dead branches we had gathered. Holding the branch with one hand, we  jumped on it. Naturally, my brothers, being older and bigger, won. My sisters and I broke the smaller ones.  We held each end and cracked them across our knees. Even now I can hear the snap as the brittle branches splintered. Mom and Dad laughed at our antics unless we got too rough. Once the fire settled down to hot coals, my parents cooked, and we played.
Not far from our table and near the bridle path stood an old tree  with a crooked branch big enough to sit on . We called it our horse tree.  My sisters and I climbed the tree and watched the world while my brothers played baseball.  Sometimes we made up stories about the people who drove by. Riders often came down the path next to us, and we jumped down from our loft, talked to them, and petted the horses. That was before my fear of horses.
 Three or four of us could fit on that thick old limb, and we thought we were so high up that no one could see us At least we thought they couldn't. Far up to a child is a lot different than to an adult. . We often sat up there until dinnertime.  After dinner, we usually went for a walk by the lake with our parents or our brothers. We weren't allowed to go alone until we got older
On Wednesdays and weekends,my aunt, uncle, and cousins came on the picnic with us. We had some great baseball games  with ten kids and four adults. We played out in the dusty old field, screaming “go to third, or run home” and shouting “catch it, throw it home” jumping up and down as our team scored a run or someone in the field caught the ball.  Being the second youngest of six kids I didn't hit the ball very far, but the adults made allowances for us younger kids. They let the ball roll past them if we managed to hit it. But there was fierce competition between us kids and even my brothers didn't give us a break. After the game, our parents relaxed or played horseshoes.
While they visited with each other, we were allowed to go almost anywhere as long as the older boys were with us.  One of my favorite memories is going for walks up a long hill. At the end of the road, an old house stood surrounded by trees and covered in ivy. Dirty windows stared at us from their ivy-covered facade. An overgrown yard hid the sidewalk. The house looked spooky, probably abandoned, but we didn't know that then.
My brothers told us a witch lived there so we couldn't get too close. We slowed down the closer we got to the house. A little more than halfway up, one of my brothers yelled, "she's coming" or "there she is." We raced back down the hill like our lives depended on it. At the bottom, we stopped out of breath and laughed, thinking we outran her.
No matter how scared we were, we  begged to go back. I think we hoped to see her one day. Of course, neither my sisters or I ever saw her. Thinking back, I'm sure no one lived there, but even as a child I had a wild imaginatIon. Not that I was the only one, my sisters and cousin imagined the same thing. 
When we got a little older, my sisters, our cousin, and I were allowed to wander by off by ourselves. We even conjured up enough courage to go up the hill alone. Not that we ever made it all the way up. It never failed one or the other of us  thought we saw someone moving in the window or our brothers sneaked up out of the woods and scared the daylights out of us. As usual we ran like the devil was chasing us. After we caught our breaths, we took after the boys, never quite quick enough to catch them. 
I miss those days.  Many of the people are gone now, but the memory remains of that simpler time. A time when all we had to worry about was doing our chores, picnics, gathering sticks for kindling, playing and pretending. It was a time when fun, imaginations, and love abounded, and summer days were magical.
We went back to Lagoon several years ago for a family reunion. The tree still stands, but the witch's house, alas, was gone. We told our children and grandchildren these tales. They listened politely, smiling and nodding, but they didn't find the humor or magic in the story as we did. 
I guess you had to be there

Roseanne's books can be found at Amazon


Taking over the police chief’s job in her hometown should have been easy for Callie Johnson. At least that's what she thought. After working in a big city, small town crime would be a breeze. What a surprise when she arrives to find her grandmother, the judge, accused of murder. As if that wasn't enough she’s attacked while walking to her car. Between criminal investigations, her nutty family’s antics and her Aunt Beatrice Lulu's matchmaking, Callie definitely has her work cut out for her. Will her grandmother be exonerated? Can Callie ward off her aunt’s unsuitable suitors? What other surprises were in store for her? More importantly, can she find the person who attacked her?