Gathered around under the rose arbor eating cold, crisp watermelon sprinkled with salt. Juice dripping down our arms and chins. Spittin' seeds. Swallowing a few. Swattin' flies.
Marsha, Ron, Terry and Dan wanted to catch a hawk. Someone thought of up the brilliant idea of smearing ketchup all over me and having me stand real still on the hill, in 100 degree heat. A 5 year old used as 'bait'. I trusted them - unbelievable! The hawk was supposed to think it was blood? Thankfully, for me it was a smart hawk and knew the difference. I still have my eyes and my flesh wasn't torn off in hunks. Although, I think that would have been easier than the torture of hiking around the rest of the afternoon in the golden, dry grass in the hills. The heat made the ketchup itchy and so sticky. It was the one day that we didn't play in the water. Whining was not aloud. If I get dementia, it harks back to enduring that day.
The hills in back of our house started out green, but by mid summer had turned golden. The long grass was slick like straw. We would save cardboard boxes, pick the perfect size, wax the bottom thickly with a candle or paraffin then head to the top and slide down. A good run, one worth the long hike up, was one where it ended at the very bottom. You had to hang on dearly to the sides of the box to stay with it/on it. Makes me thirsty remembering. And itchy. And smiley with the memory of the wind in my hair.
Grandma's neighbor in Felton loved birds. Chickadees especially. He would stand out in the yard in the morning and evening with his hand out and call, 'chickadee, chickadee, chickadee'. When I spent the night with her, I would race over to his house and watch for as long as possible. He offered to let me try it. It took a few days for them to get used to me, but the day they finally fed out of my hand when I called them was heart bursting. I barely breathed, wanting it to last and last forever. It tickled my hand.
When mom made cookies, or a cake we would get to lick the batter from the bowl. It was good, but she was too thorough scraping out every last bit of it. Grandma always left a generous amount, sort of accidentally, for us to enjoy.
Fires at the beach roasting hot dogs and marshmallows were frequent and anticipated every weekend. We would sing, make sand castles, get sand in places we didn't know we had places and beg to stay just a little bit longer. Packing up, riding home, falling asleep and somehow making it to bed, probably a sandy sheeted bed......bliss.
Ever since I can remember, I have dreamt of flying. The hill where we slid down on boxes was also a flying launch. At least I tried. And tried. And tried. Grandma had a few umbrellas stashed away for a rainy day. I'm not sure if I asked, or snuck out with them, but this idea was original. I climbed up the hill, clicked open the umbrella, then started running as fast as possible. I would almost get the feeling of 'lift' just when the stupid thing would turn inside out. It happened over and over again. Wonder how many umbrellas I ruined? Could it be that this is why I LOVE to para glide? When the kite fills, snaps and lifts you - being air born is such a rush! My first time, the one word blasting in my head was, "FINALLY"!
Mom's dog Vali died. It was a terrible thing, she was part of the family. Grandpa and Dad were supposed to bury her up under the oaks on top the hill where the Indian burial grounds were. They promised mom. It must have been a daunting task carrying her, so they negotiated and decided to stop and dig right outside the corral, out of site of the house window. Little did they know I would tattle on them. Poor dad had to dig that dog up and rebury her properly for mom. He was not happy - she was.
Dad built a fort for us out in the pasture. It was made of logs and looked exactly like a frontier fort. It was quite high and open underneath for the horses to use for shelter. The ladder going up was a long log with notches cut out. Only humans could navigate it we were told, so many a summer night we slept up under the stars, feeling safely adventurous. Dad was quite a woodsman, and I think he poured all of his creativity into making it for us. Whatever he made was rough hewn, but solid like a rock.
Our donkey Noel once ate the crotches out of Grandma's underwear hanging on the line. Everyone thought it was hilarious, except Grandma. The look on her face and the steam coming out her ears as she surveyed the clothespins clasped on the shredded remains - memorable. I still have her red checkered bag full of those same clothespins.
We had a big hand crank ice cream maker. The flywheel itself was cast iron art. Mom would soak the oak bucket part the night before to swell the wood tight. It was always an 'event' to have homemade ice cream. For as much work as it was, it's hard to believe we had it so often in the summer. Mom would freeze milk cartons full of water the night before. When the canister was full, the crank assembled and rock salt ready, dad would peel the cartons open and fill a gunny sack with the blocks of ice. He would use a mallet to pound the pieces into crushed ice. Layering ice and salt, ice and salt around the canister was serious business, getting it just right to freeze the cream properly. Here's the best part. Picture a strawberry festival where a girl is picked to be 'princess'. When the cream started getting stiff and the cranking harder and harder to do, dad picked me to sit on the towel on top to steady the bucket. I always felt like royalty sitting on a throne. Seeing dad sweat and his muscles rippling and looking forward to the treat that 'we' were making........the memory is sweeter than the ice cream. If there was a young man around dad would often hand off the cranking almost as a right of passage, initiation into manhood. Sometimes I would be dethroned for a big bottomed girl who could keep it steady with her weight. Whoever could manhandle that flywheel crank by the end was invited to partake of the prize. The prize was the ice cream covered paddle that had to come out before the canister was repacked with fresh salt and ice to 'cure' for an hour. It was a guy thing. Women were excluded from this male bonding. Everyone seemed happy with it. Could that ice cream have been as good as I remember? I think so. There was love cranked in.