Summer days a time to recall

Published 12:17 am Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The air was still and so humid any movement was uncomfortable. As I sat on the back steps taking a break from working in the yard, an image popped into my head, something I hadn’t thought about in years.

In a flash, I was time-traveling back to summers when I was a child. On those glorious days, my siblings and I headed outside almost as soon as the sun was up. The temperature mattered not a bit to us in the time before air conditioners were standard equipment in every house.

Of course, hot days meant that by sunset, we were a bunch of sweaty, dirty children. Mother called us in for baths and how black the water in the tub was at the end of the experience was an indicator of how much fun we had that day.

The instructions she gave always included, “Don’t forget to wash your neck.” Sometimes we did as she said and sometimes we forgot that part of our anatomy, which meant we came to supper wearing our summer necklaces — a ring of black dirt that settled in the creases announcing that no soap ventured into the neck area during bath time.

If mother noticed, and she always did, we made a trip back to the bathroom to remove the telltale necklace of grim. As I sat smiling at that memory, I thought about my own children toddling around playing in the yard.

Of course, dirt was the favorite medium for their early creativity, especially when it combined with a little water to produce a nice consistency of mud. They spent hours hand-driving cars and trucks along imaginary roads or patting make-believe pies into shape.

At the end of the afternoon, they were usually a shade darker than when they started their day. I’d pull a small body into my lap, feeling their pudgy skin damp with sweat. And ringing each little neck from front to back was a wonderful summer necklace.

When they were really young, I’d scrub away the dirt in a warm tub; then as I wrapped them in towels, I’d bury my face in the sweet toddler fragrance of a clean neck. As I nuzzled them under their chins, they laughed with delight at the chance for a tickle.

As they grew, my own mother’s words came from my mouth as they headed for a bath at the end of the day, “Don’t forget to wash your neck.”

And as it often does, history repeated itself when my children wore their summer necklaces to the supper table. Remembering that, I laughed out loud, recalling the sound of their feet as they stomped back to the bathroom to finish the job.

A slight breeze stirred the hot air bringing me back to the present.

“Those summers passed so quickly,” I whispered to the cat asleep beside me.

It’s been many years since the carefree summer days when all that I had to do was play. Now two of my own babies have children of their own; children that are already beyond the age of playing pretend in the mud.

With a sigh, I headed in for the comfort of air conditioning and to splash some cool water on my beet red face. As I lifted my head from the sink and looked in the mirror, a giggle bubbled up from deep inside.

There forming a perfect circle around my neck was a glorious, black summer necklace. Deciding to wear it for a while, I walked away from the mirror whispering — “Don’t forget to wash your neck.”