This blog is a little different...I hope you like it...
I'm laying in a lounge chair in my backyard...it's Memorial Day 2020 and my mind wants to drift back to a time when life was so much simpler.
The sun is going down and there is a breeze stirring up the trees and blowing the scent of the Carolina Jasmine around in the air. It's a large unkempt bush that I refuse to chop down even though it doesn't put out many blooms but those that do still perfume the air.
I see a little squirrel running about in the branches of a tree hanging over from my neighbors yard and nearby two blue jays are having a quarrel while the peacocks that roam the neighborhood shriek and scream in the distance. A fat bumble bee flies at me and nearly gets caught in my hair it's buzz as loud as a saw as I shake it out.
I lay back and close my eyes and set my phone to play songs from my childhood summers...1976 to be exact...a time before my father chose to spend time with another woman and leave our family. A woman who never liked or accepted me and tormented me for years but is now in my past. She's mother to one of my brothers and two of my sisters but to me---nothing.
A song comes on that transports me to my childhood bedroom. It's painted lavender and soft green with a long shag carpet and my camp trump stands open at the end of one of my two canopy beds. The trunk is slowly being filled with whatever I need for camp along with whatever fun things I want to take that I might just want. And lots of stationery...because back then we wrote letters...
I want to go back to camp.
I sip on my Kool Aid since today, in 2020, I am fighting cancer and need to hydrate for the chemo to come. But the taste of the grape, sweet and sugary in my mouth, makes me think of "canteen" time at camp.
I picture my camp friends and counselors...my beloved Camp Director Julie standing on the porch of the "Big House" before we snake inside to load our trays with food that in my memory---was delicious. I can almost taste the strawberry cake, the Hunter's Stew (which I am pretty sure was just Dinty Moore but it tasted better after having sat on a campfire), the sweet tea we drank by the gallons, the pizza cut in squares like at school and most of all the beloved Brownie Pudding that was sure to make all of us sugared up good but could also get us to behave in every possible way since we knew it was a treasured treat.
I hear the sweet voices as we sing our goodnight songs before heading back to cabins to shower and sleep with no air conditioning but the breeze through the screen doors and the whirring box fans (which to this day will lull me to sleep) kept us cool.
I was always on a bottom bunk so each morning I would sit up and get my hair caught in the springs of the bunk above me...woken by the clanging bell that started our days at the best place on earth.
I wish I could stand in the creek once more and feel the icy water rush past me as I hear the sounds of the guns cracking from the rifle range...and wave to the other cabin of girls as they ride past on horses for a trail ride---something I loathed but put up with at camp. I never was good at riding like my sisters and brother were...they loved it...I...survived it.
The peacocks scream again and I am transported back to the 70's and summer on the King Ranch...peacocks roamed the grounds and screamed constantly.
Memories flood back of Cousin Camp where I was forced to ride each day but did so just so I could do things all day with my beloved cousin Henrietta. I waited all year to get to be with her, and CeCe, and Sarah, and Anne Marie, and of course my cousins Mike, Linda, Jamie and Martin who would toss me across the pool like I was a ball.
Cousin Camp was as glorious as sleepaway camp...but in some ways better because we were all family. It was a week I lived for as a child and I mourned the loss of it more than I mourned my parent's divorce. Because of my father leaving the ranch we were no longer allowed to go back and I regret that my children never knew how much fun an impromptu dance party in the pool house could be. Or what it was like to have a pie fight and hear my aunts yell at us not to jump into the pool---which we did anyway. Or to just push the merry go round as fast as we could to see how long we could hold on. Simple pleasures.
I wish I could return to Kings Inn with my cousins or our dear family friends the Canales family and dance to the juke box while stuffing ourselves with shrimp and tartar sauce.
My memories of camp and Kings Inn give way to what Memorial Day would have been back then.
Music on the jukebox plays (mostly Eagles and Abba and Fleetwood Mac) as we swim for so many hours our toes would bleed from bouncing on the bottom of the pool. I can hear my father's laugh and my mother directing where the food should be and asking Peyton to take charge of the grilling as my dad tended to get to talking and burn things.
I see my parent's friends fanned out around the pool---some smoking and having a beer, others bouncing a baby in the water, the dogs running about and trying to jump in. My little sister Katie is in the "baby pool"---a place she was so comfortable in that she would often sneak out of the house, remove her diaper, and sit in the pool with a dog on either side of her. My sister Susan is a baby and is in her outdoor bassinet in the shade of the pool house and my friends, sisters and I try to boss the younger kids around and keep them from joining us in the bigger part of the pool.
The memories are jolted away by the sound of my air conditioner kicking on loudly and whirring as it cools my house.
It feels like 5 minutes ago I was in Kingsville in my backyard in the pool with a camp trunk waiting to be closed and instead I am alone in my own backyard in a lounge chair I bought in a house that is mine alone.
It's 2020 and my kids are in their own places and their father is now spending time with another woman (with my blessing).
And there is a pandemic.
And I'm alone...and a bit lonely but at peace with the lonliness.
I change my playlist to 1982 and remember that May so long ago.
I remember my graduation...praying my parents would be nice to each other and just give me one night where I didn't have to listen to one complain about the other. I solved that for my own children by placing myself somewhere else in the stadium than where their father was sitting.
I remember sitting in the chairs with my hair curled just so in my very hot graduation gown and my cap perfectly placed on my head so as to show off those curls. I sat next to John and we entertained each other during the ceremony and I remember looking at him thinking he might just be the nicest boy I had ever met and I knew he was going to accomplish things. He did.
We had a party at our house where my friend Kris and I made the worlds worst margaritas and my friends who dared to jump into the pool were shocked by how freezing it was. But it was a fun party.
And now back in 2020 I think of my friend's kids who will not get to sit on a track in a hot polyester graduation gown with a cap perched just so on their heads...or if they do it won't be the same as it was when I was young...or even last year. And they might not have a boy as sweet as John was sitting next to them.
My mind then drifts to Memorial Day about 2008 when camp trunks are sitting open in two bedrooms in my old house. It's 3 years before I will leave my ex and the washing machine is broken as I am trying to wash all the camp stuff before packing it. My daughter has just finished 8th grade and my son will be moving on to middle school. We lazily swim in our backyard pool and discuss what needs to go into the trunks and I am disappointed that my daughter doesn't have the same excitement about camp that I did but my son is fully ready to get to his camp and spend 28 days just being a boy.
And then I remember the last summer I had in that house. The kids and I floating in the pool most evenings before dinner...time that was so precious because we would swim and talk and laugh. And I knew that in a moment they would be gone...
I open my eyes and watch the squirrel a bit more...and a lizard who seems to be desperately trying to find a girlfriend. He bubbles out his little red throat bubble and scurries around but I don't see any lady friends around for him to attract so maybe he's doing it for me.
The air conditioner has quieted again and I say a prayer for my friends who are in the hospital battling COVID. They are a dear married couple who have already had a hellish year because their house burned down (killing all their fur babies) and their daughter is one of my seniors. He is in one unit recovering while she is in mid-battle in another unit of the same hospital. She tells me that the nurses relay messages between the two of them and my heart breaks that this is how their daughter's senior year is ending. This is not how Memorial Day should be for them or any of us.
I look down at my raggedy nails and long for a manicure but my doctor warns me that I am at too high a risk because of my cancer. So they will look awful for a while longer.
My hair, once so bleached blonde from hours in a swimming pool as a child (and sometimes green thanks to that same pool) now needs Sun-In (yeah I am old school) to lighten the roots. My hair is not the shiny platinum of my youth but is now a brassy golden blonde that could really use a cut.
But no one is seeing me and I'm not allowed to go out to eat or shop so who cares what my hair is like. Besides it is always residing in a pony tail atop my head.
I'm stuck in my house...or in my backyard.
But as I feel the sun getting lower and decide to move inside and write this all down before it leaves my head I feel gratitude...
I had a great childhood despite some hiccups along the way.
I didn't have a great marriage but I have wonderful memories of my own kids when they were young and we enjoyed the summer together or when I packed them up to go to their own camp.
I worry for my friends but am grateful they are responding to treatment and I pray that I will not be texting any other people I love in the hospital.
I stand up and my nerve that is pinched in my left leg reminds me that my body is damaged and standing is not as easy as it was last summer...before the second spinal fusion.
I take a few last sips of my Kool Aid and make my way inside to fill my glass again lest I have an oncologist fuss at me for my creatinine levels once more. I head to my shower to wash off the sun and the sweat just as the katydids start to sing their songs...visions of summer's past blowing through my mind.
Summer has started...what memories are there to be made in a year of a pandemic?
Only August knows...
Inspiration Song: "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts...because the summer breeze reminds me that once again we will all feel fine....
Bye Darlings...I hope you enjoyed my reverie...and maybe it reminded you of the summers of your past...and let's pray for the one that is before us...and please pray for my friends and all the sweet seniors who have had their school year end this way...