28 Jun

The Ghost of Summers Past

One thing that bums me out about not living in Utah living in Oakland is that we’ll never be able to camp out in our backyard during the summer. I don’t know if I should even call it “camping” since when I did it grown up we hardly ever used a tent, just laid our sleeping bags out on the deck floor, or maybe on a patio recliner, and fell asleep looking at the stars and listening to the night noises (which sometimes meant a wild hot tub party next door) and then woke up with the sun.

Sleeping over at my grandparents’ house with the cousins was extra fun during the summer. We’d stake out places on their back porch and have the hardest time calming down. One year they told us a dozen times that the sliding glass door into the house was open but the screen door was closed, so don’t walk into it, and then guess who walked right into it, boinging off the mesh onto her nine-year-old butt and emerging unscathed but not unadmonished, having left a girl-shaped dent in the frame.

I have seventeen cousins on that side (versus one on my dad’s side), and I grew up seeing a lot of them pretty regularly. (Put this in the column of why I’m bummed that my kids only have two cousins and they live on the other side of the world.) In my grandparents’ bathroom cabinet, one drawer was full of toothbrushes for the grandkids, each one with a name painted on the handle in my grandma’s nail polish. My grandpa died two Christmases ago, and my grandma’s not the fly young thing she was when I was growing up (she used to go down all the waterslides with us, even at the expense of her hairdo), but knowing her she probably still keeps a drawer of name-polished toothbrushes for the local great-grandkids. When I visit this summer, I’ll have to look for it, along with the boxes of junky cereal (Lucky Charms!) I hoped she hadn’t told my mom about.

Our Oakland summers have lemonade fresh from the tree and cool sea breezes at the beach, but no grandparents or backyard sleep-outs. The raccoons would tear us apart and use our eyeballs to play dice on the corner under the streetlamp, and OH MY GOD THE BUGS. Were there this many bugs when I was a kid, or is the world in the early stages of a global insect revolution? I used to get eaten alive by mosquitos in Utah, even sprayed with so much repellant you could see the stink lines radiating from my body. Summers as a kid were a heady bouquet of my grandma’s fancy perfume, Lucky Charms, and bug spray, and Calamine lotion. My nose is the closest I’ll get to a time machine, but I’ll take it.

[This post was written in response to the second prompt for Ginger's Bring Back the Words series.]

By    2 Comments    Posted in: Regular Entries


  • You know, I never did the camping outside in the backyard thing (I grew up in scorpion country. NO THANK YOU), but the grandparent/cousin thing? Yeah, that’s a summer thing FOR SURE. It does make me a little sad for my kiddo (uh, he has none cousins. None. Poor guy), because those sorts of memories are such a big part of my growing up years.

  • That is one fine grandma that will do things at the expense of her hairdo (I can just picture it).

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