August 11th, 2007

summer skin

Memories of summers spent in South Dakota as a child are indelibly stamped on my senses. I just shut my eyes to be transported back again: the smell of pool chlorine on my skin, salty tasting upper lip; heat, thick and simmery, prickling at my cheeks. There’s the local pool we would ride to every day, two or even three of us piled precariously onto a single bike careening down the block; the melt of bodies into the steamy station wagon after a long day swimming (this easily holds its title as one of the best sensations in the world); the frantic digging for lost change in the deep recesses of a sofa with pheasant-pattern print—the triumphant “find”—and the sprint down to the Dairy Queen to spend it all (in pennies) on a butterscotch-dipped cone.

Jack’s summer city, by contrast, is not saturated in lush greens but in shades of silver and cobblestone. Its sky is not quite as engulfing, but it commands over glistening rooftops on clear days in a blue brilliance, streak-free of clouds and sweltering with luck and chance and possibility. We are now in the thick of it: heavy, vapid, humid, city summer. The sidewalk vendors hide under big rainbow umbrellas; gossip on the corner stoop lulls; life outside slows to the rhythm of the old men playing chess in the streets.

It’s not from the same thick stock of summer-ness that occupies my own memories, but even so, it is transformative. Trailing after my two-year-old, I am once again the straw-haired, spindly-legged kid collecting acorns, piling sticks, soaked to the skin in squeaky-clean sweat. We indulge in sprinklers and water fountains without a thought for our clothes; we jump like grasshoppers and watch squirrels chasing each other around a tree. On the way home, we stop to chat with now familiar folk. Jack’s elderly friend, Antonio, saves a bag of bread crumbs for when Jack stops by, and I smile as I watch the two of them feed the birds, Antonio shooing away the pigeons who try to steal Jack’s spray of crumbs from the sparrows.

Summer in this city, with Jack, is bigger than the whole wide world expanding. Here we are, filled to overflowing with it.

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Posted by: Sarah on August 11th, 2007
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