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“What is your idea of the perfect summer?”

There are white curtains blowing in the breeze the open window provides. I’m wearing a chambray shirt and khaki shorts, watering my herb garden growing in terra cotta pots. I’m rejuvenated. I’m refreshed. I’m alive.

And then I wake up.

When I was growing up, I loved the summer, as most kids did, but not because it was a break from school because I was one of the nerdy ones who loved school, loved learning. As an Army brat, we often moved when school was out. One of those moves was from North Little Rock to Crossett as I finished the first grade. I was quiet and shy and turned to books…and that summer it was the World Book Encyclopedia. I still have that set of 20 books, their once green and white covers and spines yellowed, showing their age since their printing in 1960. While some of the material still may have relevance, they are no longer used for reference. I hold on to them for sentimental value all the same.

I’m no longer a fan of the extreme heat so I can only use childhood summers to describe perfect summers. We lived in a big 2-story house. There was no air conditioning, yet the attic fans kept it comfortable through those hot Arkansas summers. I remember opening the windows just a few inches and the “cool” air would stream through. We played in the sprinklers. We rode our bikes to Central Park and dared each other to go down the slide. That heated-by-the-sun metal was often too hot to touch. We tried frying eggs on the sidewalk.

Some weekends we would make daytrips to Lake Catherine. I can still hear “Summer in the City” playing on the jukebox in the pavilion. Mother would have sloppy Joes in the electric skillet ready to reheat when we came home. That smell is the perfect summer to me.

Key West was the perfect place to be in the early 70s summers. The snowbirds had gone home; summer tourism was very light. The Chicago Cubs had a farm team there and a buck would get you a box seat! Poinciana trees, lobster season….it was a great place to grow up.

I divorced in 1987 and with that came the annual summer family vacations: my mother, sister and brother-in-law, my kids and I would go somewhere for a week, always a beach town, always a house on the water. My brother and his family would come with us every other year. We played cards, we cooked together, we laughed a lot. It was my time to recharge, to refresh – the water does that for me. I would walk for miles on the beach, usually alone, but sometimes with a pod of dolphin swimming beside me as was the case in North Carolina. Every day they’d be there as I walked north, leaving me when I made the turn to walk back to the rented beach house.

I would leave each trip with a hundred ideas, with plans to redecorate, with stories to write.

A perfect summer would be that feeling, that inspired feeling, that creative feeling, that hopeful feeling – that summer feeling.

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