During these short summer months, some are lucky enough to return to the vacation spots of our youth. However, for most, those old summer haunts are long gone… vanished into the changing landscape. But, I’ve happily discovered, one can spy the shadow of our faded past, even in a new locale. For really, what does returning home mean in our increasing nomadic culture?Might not home be anyplace where the screen door bangs in an accustomed way and none of the dinner dishes in the cupboard match or where you spend the day wandering to and from the watering hole barefoot and laughing hours away with cousins? In these places, nostalgia for the carefree days blooms all summer long… One whiff of a poppy or hydrangea as you stroll along sandy roads and you are reminded, yes, indeed, you realize why place is secondary to the familial faces knowingly smiling back… most assuredly you discover it is the people who make the summer place feel like home.
Recently, I was fortunate to crash my cousins’ family reunion at their lakeside community, joining a fellowship of aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, all arriving for a week together. Who could resist such an invitation!?! I RSVPed at the last minute and still remembered to pack the sparklers!
After unpacking the car and settling into our cottage rental, my first impulse is to get to the lake and dive in! My family are notorious water lovers, starting our day with a morning swim and ending with a twilight dip. Light dancing across the blue water, my toes sinking in the sand, my fingers sliding through the cool water after the first plunge: seriously, is there anything better than a swim on a hot July day?
Here in this “new” summer place I discover an artifact from the “old” summer place. On the dock rests an instant reminder: the glider that sat on the back porch of our family home for decades. Yes, new teal cushions, even fresh white paint on the metal frame, but the same clunk clunk slide slide from way back as far back as my memory will allow, and seeing it here makes me smile even bigger! Cocktail hour was even more joyous once we all piled on…
At any family gathering there are always a new generation of children, who, without fail, look just like the previous generation, with similar features and hair color, instantly becoming fast friends, hanging off the dock and ladder, postponing the plunge as they chat away the sunshine. Their joy echos your own…
Day’s end finds us still at the water’s edge to catch the sunset, while the girls and boys dash about making the most of every second of their time together… In fact, I notice, some still have their bathing suits on, just in case there is another chance to splash about in that divine lake!
With so many relatives here to join the party, ideas spring into action like tiny bursts of light. After dinner someone collects wood and a fire is started. I retrieve the sparklers and right before the smores get organized we light up the darkness.
There is a tangible magic when the generations collide… when you play in the sun and dance in the night… when you spark a light into the dark of your psyche… and come home to your people… in a summer place.
**Dedicated to the generous Guiney family, my dear cousins, who let a slew of us crash their family reunion. With open hearts they greeted us each morning and with an open home they fed us each evening. Thank you for the new memories!