Sunday, September 02, 2007

Summer Nights

As the summer of 2007 has "officially" drawn to a close (by the academic calendar if not the actual arrival of the equinox), I can look back and realize that it truly was one of the standout summers of my life. Miss Tessmacher and I got into a discussion about summers, the really GREAT summers that we've experienced, and it occurred to me that no matter how great it is to have the summer "off" from work, there are really only a handful of them that have met the lofty expectations of Great Summers. Here they are:

1978 & 1979
Ahhh, the perfect years of kidhood. I was 10 and 11 during these heady days, ages that I think encapsulate completely what being a kid is all about. The memories are now fused into one single event horizon, so that I can't say for sure what happened in one or the other. No matter, though: I know it was a time of long bike rides and endless discovery. I had my best friend Eric, and together we would roam all over our tiny hometown of Auburn, looking for fun and, occasionally, a little trouble. We'd take a big refrigerator box from the local appliance store and make it into a fort in his back yard. After it had softened from a few rains, we'd get in it facing one wall and crawl, turning our fort into one giant tank tread. Star Wars was new and the action figures were endless, and galaxies lived or died by the heroics of our 3-3/4 inch "guys." Sleepovers were huge comic-trading events, and once his parents were safely asleep we'd hoist ourselves out his basement bedroom window and prowl the neighborhood, mostly trying not to be seen by passing cars but occasionally stuffing someone's mailbox with the laundry carelessly left out on the line. A new subdivision was going in a few blocks away, and after the workmen were gone for the weekend we'd spend hours clamboring around the piles of dirt, Sleestaks waiting for us around every bend. Kiss truly was the biggest band in the world, and I'd buy wax packs of their cards from Tom Sheridan's, our local "general store." A different friend named Eric lived on a farm, and we'd spend days at his place running around the great old barn near his house, playing a combined form of dodgeball/tag (you throw the ball at someone: if he gets hit, he's "it." Miss, or if he catches're still it.) which was fun until his younger brother fell through the creaky old 2nd floor loft & broke his leg. Darren lived just kitty-corner from my house, and he had a collection of Micronauts that would make Toys 'R' Us jealous. We all worshipped Kiss, and could spend hours mimicking their concerts while Alive! or Alive II blared from our turntables. When the pressures of adult life sneak up & bite me in the ass, these are the summers I long to return to; I even wrote a song about these days, called Magic. Young & carefree & still a little was great.

1986 & 1987
These were the last summers of my teenage years. I graduated from high school in '86, and my parents were in the midst of getting back together and were spending lots of days at the farm they'd eventually move to full-time. That left me home alone quite often in Cass City, with my foxy valedictorian girlfriend and a 16x32 pool in the back yard. I had to mow the grass and basically keep the house in order, but otherwise I was as free as I'd been at 10...only THIS time with a license! My friend Paul & I would hang out at his place, watching a fairly new MTV until all hours of the night, then we'd decide we needed double-cheeseburgers so we'd drive over to Caro because Cass City didn't yet have a McDonald's. By the time the summer of '87 rolled around, my folks were living at the farm but the Cass City house hadn't sold yet. I was charged with the "job" of going there every weekend to mow the grass and basically keep the place looking lived-in. Now with a year of college under my belt, I threw legendary parties with Brent, Jeff, Jim, Andy, Dallas, and a host of other friends who found themselves back home with little to do. By day Brentski & would play endless games of Axis & Allies, then we'd have 20 or 30 of our "closest friends" (and all the great-looking girls we could muster) over for beer that was supplied by Jim's mom. Occasionally we'd fire up a J, or I'd try to hypnotize Brent and have him lift up the living room couch. If the summers of 10 & 11 represented all that was good about being a kid, the summers of 18 & 19 convinced me that the fun doesn't just exchanges action figures for cases of Strohs.

1995 & 1996
I was deep into my doctoral work at this point, but I still went home to my folks' place in the summer. Mostly it was to make some dough: rather than get a "real job," I worked for my mom who paid me (well) to help her renovate & restore the ailing family farm. The work was hard but honest, and I'm now able to tackle the same kinds of things in my own house. My personal relationship was on the rocks - I frankly wasn't mature enough yet to be the man my girlfriend wanted me to be - and Eric was recently divorced from his crazy-ass first wife. I took Wednesdays off from working at the farm to get guitar lessons from my friend Eileen, then I'd head over to Midland where Eric owned a trailer. I'd spend the night there, reminiscent of our days as children, only now the worlds that lived & died by our hands were represented by the cards of Magic: The Gathering. I spent sometimes almost as much as I made during the week on these slices of cardboard, but I never once regretted it. Eric & I would drink endless quantities of Mountain Dew (sometimes so much I'd break out in canker sores from all the citrus & sugar) and smoke ashtrays worth of cigarettes, playing cards until the wee hours of the morning; then, I'd have to haul my ass off his couch and go back home to work. The summer of '96 was also highlighted by the reunited original members of Kiss, and they opened their monster tour at Tiger Stadium. Eric joined me and the ranks of my college marching buddies in welcoming back the hottest band in the world on the hottest night of the year: 10 o'clock at night and it was still 80 degrees...I just kept thinking "Those guys must be kicking themselves right now for choosing to put all that gear back on in this heat!" Since I met Tess in the fall of '96, I now realize that these summers were my last before the TRUE responsibilities of adulthood set in. And while I wouldn't trade my adult life for anything...well, they were halcyon days still.

2007 and...?
And so we're back to the here & now. So many things happened this really just has been kind of a whirlwind. I spent a great weekend early on with my frother (that's a convenient combination of "friend" & "brother") Mike as he completed his second ROCK, bro! I spent three weeks renovating the hallway & stairs in our house, and while I don't seek out time to be separated from Tess, the only child that I am does enjoy the quiet ability to simply do whatever I want, whenever I want. My friend Eric, long banished to the hinterlands of St. Louis, made a triumphant (and hopefully permanent!) return to Michigan...Ann Arbor, no less, and could there be a cooler town to visit? And, of course, The Roslynator showed up right on schedule. It was a summer of endings: saying goodbye to the Grand Ledge band camp (see previous post) and of the beginning of my parenthood. The cool thing, though? As I look back, I see that my "best" summers have always come in pairs. Hmmm...makes me wonder what 2008 will bring?!?


Blogger L*I*S*A said...

Ahhhh yes, 1986. Twas a great year, and I'm shocked to say it was 21 years ago that I graduated from high school.


2:27 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Nice post! I wish I had the ability to remember details like that. Although there IS a benefit to no long term memory...who are you again?!?

Off topic...have a listen to The Killers album Hot Fuss. There's your "new music" recommendation I promised...

3:30 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Nice post. you've been a little happy-go-melancholy lately with your ramblings....

any post-partum on your part????

7:59 PM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

It's okay....nostalgia is a good thing.

My hubby can't seem to escape the 80's and hair metal.

9:02 PM  

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