Labor Day Memories

LA MESA -- Holiday weekend; the end of Summer. What does that mean to you? Last gasp to celebrate the Summer, beach party with gobs of ice cold beer, bbq with gobs of ice cold beer. As we swelter in the heat today and through the weekend each of us grasp at the end of another great summer and look down the road at Autumn (my personal favourite) then winter and Christmas time, wouldnt it be great if we had a freak snow storm?

Summer many years ago seemed much different, much more special. All us kids knew what was coming up. Oh, unless a birthday or a holiday was approaching, we didnt pay much attention, if any, to dates, weeks or months, seldom even the day of the week. Days were getting warmer and longer. Frequent glances out the school windows. Plans were made then changed. Finally, FINALLY, the teacher was standing in front of the class congratulating us for a grand year and hoping we would all have a great Summer. Silly woman. Of course we were going to have a great Summer, if they would just let us out of class early. And then one of the greatest times of the year. That bell rang and the rush of cattle to get through that door and outside FOR THE SUMMER. None of us knew what day it was apart from THE END OF SCHOOL. Cheering, whistling, girls giggling, boys bragging and telling everyone close what each was going to do all Summer long. The long, hot walk home and, once home it was official. "Okay guys, in the morning we meet at sun up. Everybody get "your mum to pack you a lunch and grab a couple of fruit jars full of water and we're going to "The Flat Rocks".

Eyes open before the sun comes up and waiting anxiously to get going. Finally mum says we can go now. Out the door, grabbing and jumping on the bike and away. All us guys are headed out. Across the dirt road, down the path through the wheat fields. As we ride we admire how the wind makes the wheat look like the ocean. Seems like hours until we finally get to "The Rocks". Back then the "Flat Rocks" was a big, shady and watery heaven for us to hide out and spend the day. Now I suppose it would just be a rather small copse of trees surrounding a small creek spilling out over large flat rocks forming a great pool. Not deep enough to to dive but sure deep enough to jump and float about. Frogs, birds, damsel flies, wee snakes. A boy's paradise. Leaping from our bikes, we dashed to the rocks, dropped our musettes and stripped. That first freezing grasp as we plunged in then it was just swell. Later, lying on the rocks in the dappled sunshine, we told one another tall stories and ate our bologna sandwiches. What a day, what a day. As the sun is dropping, just about to touch the wheat, we peddle frantically. Gotta get home before dark or pop will give us hell!. What a day.

Another year and we dash from our houses to play in the Summer rain storm. Pouring down and we are soaked, dashing from puddle to puddle. Down to the creek to watch the tadpoles becoming frogs. That odd, coppery smell in the air that always caused me pause. Today, I smell that coppery ozone and am once again a wee lad. In the afternoon, finally dried off, we gather in one or another's house - there are only a couple of us in the entire neighborhood that own a television. Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent, Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Howdy Doodie.

Older and we "older " guys watch the wee lads doing just what we did not really so long ago and occasionally wishing we could join in and return to "The Flat Rocks" just to bask in the dappled shade again and listen to the frogs.

Not sure what the date is but all us guys are talking about meeting at one of our homes to watch Jerry Lewis' Telethon. Its always great fun to sit up all night long, eat popcorn, sandwiches, sneak Cokes or Koolaid and watch Jerry and all his stars. As the long night ends we can barely keep our eyes open but we are in it to the end. Most of us last through to the late afternoon when he sings that song and we collapse. We did it. But, it seems that when the Telethon is over its just a couple days again until school starts. Ugh! School again. New, stiff clothes. A stack of books, Tablets and that rubber smell from the erasers on the pencils mum has bought and made us stick in our musettes.

Those special summers, the bike rides, the swims, the over nighters, staying up late on Saturday night to watch the horror show each week. Swapping comics, glasses of Koolaid sweating on the table beside us in the back yard. The watermelon smell of freshly cut grass. Making a whistle from grass blades. Moms smearing salve on our sunburned backs. No haircuts. Levis, shirts and cowboy hats. Dont remember ever wear my boots unless we were going somewhere special. Generally barefooted. What great days.

Labour Day is on us again, in a new year, a new century. As I go outdoors into the pretty hot and damned humid days I frequently am pulled back to similar days and times a lifetime ago.. I pull off my hat and mop my brow frequently and recall halting my bike those years ago to doff my hat and wipe by brow.  I find a shady and breezy spot and sit and look at all the pictures behind my eyes. I see the rope swing over the river. I watch myself tossing a stick for my dog as he races across the freshly turned fields. I see myself and my pals hunting on another with those rubber guns my father had made for us. Boy, it hurt when I got hit on my bare back. Those ball games in the hot summer when no one really cared about scores or who won. Walking in the rain. Always loved the rain. Smelling that overpowering odor of that black rainsuit my mum.bought. Whew! Did that thing stink but it was rather fun walking in the pouring rain wearing that smelly thing. Special days when my pop would make home made ice cream or bring home a giant Black Diamond watermelon. We'd sit in the back yard with a slice of melon, spitting seeds. Always a contest for distance you understand. We'd go fish in the river. Catch those big ole blue catfish. Never keep them though. Always toss them back and try again. Racing bikes, cards attached to spokes to simulate motorcycles, with burning sweat in the eyes. Birthday parties when mum made you dress nice and leave your favourite hole-in-knees levis at home. Had to comb my hair. Wow! Had hair back then.

Didnt seem so hot back then as it is today. But then, time passes, what? The older I get the more these pictures and sounds and smells come back stronger to me. Talk to my sister back there in Texas and she remembers the same things. She shared much of the stuff, well not the parts with just us guys you understand. But those hot Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma days, those warm nights with the lightning bugs everywhere. The constant sound of the cicadas in the trees. Grass between my toes, hat pulled down over my eyes. Nothing but time, nothing but a lifetime ahead. Plans to make and remake. Labour Day is here again and, whilst everyone else seems to be away doing things, I remain here, hat pulled over my eyes, reliving the life of a wee lad, a half grown boy, a young man. Its not bad though. My own personal photo gallery with the added bonus of memories for each of the photos.

What you remember about your childhood? Your summers, your special places and favourite things. Your best pal, those bike rides. Pull your hat down over your eyes with me and let the mind relive those special summers. 

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Tags: David Stanley, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper

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