Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
From the age of twelve till the age of sixteen, summers were magical and free. My parents owned a summer cottage in upper Wisconsin. Near the forest, on the water. They would send me, my younger brother and my older sister away from the big city, and there we were to spend the summer by ourselves!
It was a time of freedom. A time to be able to read all day if I wanted. Which many times I did. My sister is only 2 years older than me but she was always a very responsible young lady. Not to say we always got along, because as all siblings do, we fought sometimes. But, we always forgave each other quickly and stayed the best of friends.
Those summers were paradise. There weren’t many people around at that time. There were lots of places to explore. Large oak, beech, aspen and pine trees to lay under and dream of worlds of long ago or far away. My imaginary friends and foes were gallant and strong, or cowardly and villainous. They were all what I wanted them to be.
That first year we spent alone at the cottage was a little frightening as it was the first time being so much on our own. Of course at the time we never knew that everyone that lived up there were watching over us. That was my parents little secret. Even the owner of the tiny grocery store quarter of a mile away was watching over us. My parents gave my sister money so we could buy groceries and snacks. The store owner would suggest things for us to buy and tell us how to fix it. Thinking back, I suppose that was to make sure we didn’t live on ice cream and cookies, or Spaghetti O’s! We all felt so grown up.
At the time none of us thought about the fact that our parents put so much trust in us. They trusted us to do what needed to be done, like washing the dishes every day to keeping the cottage clean and orderly. And they trusted us not to hurt each other. For two months we had only ourselves to rely on. (Or so we thought)
I loved those summers. The first one I remember being at first scared, then excited about having the freedom of traipsing all over the country side. Being able to stay up for as long as I wanted. Which we did the first week, then I got into the habit of going to bed at a reasonable time so I could be up at the crack of dawn. I loved those mornings the best. When I would get up and dressed then go down to the pier and watch the mist float over the water. The quiet would only be broken by the call of the Loon. It’s eerie and beautiful wail would echo across the water. It was the most magical time of the day. My imagination would make floating dancers, stalking Indians, gossamer winged fairies out of that mist.
My brother and I would catch harmless grass snakes, frogs and interesting bugs by the waters edge. I was such a tomboy that snakes and bugs didn’t bother me. I always made sure my brother let them go at the end of the day. I never wanted to feel responsible for the death of one of these creatures. I always had a soft heart for them.
My parents would come up every other weekend. They both worked and so unless they had vacation that was the only time they got. They would ask us how things were going and we would tell them of our adventures. It wasn’t until much later in life that we learned that out parents were quite proud of us and our independence.
I will never forget those few summers of freedom. I always had a grand time and felt sad at going home and back to another year of school. After my sister got married when she was 19 those summers stopped. There was too much chaos and trouble for a few years for me to go back. And my parents didn’t feel safe in letting me stay by myself for that length of time.
I have my memories. Of times of freedom and joy. Of times that I could just be who I was. Of times that I could dream and imagine. That I could just be a child of nature.
What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick