I say this because July is the only summer month in which children are completely free of school. Some schools don’t end their year until late in June. Some begin the next year in August. Of course, for people whose children are grown, or who never had them, all summer months hold possibilities. But for children, July is a beautiful blank, offering everything from summer camps to fun lessons to family vacations–and, best of all, time to be alone with themselves, or to spend it with friends.
I grew up in a town surrounded by farms: wagons brought in just picked corn, tomatoes, butter beans and snap beans, as well summer squash, okra, cucumbers and eggplants. Plus gallon buckets of figs, won in an early morning battle with Blue Jays and mockingbirds who wanted them all for themselves. Now when organic vegetables and those grown without chemicals are the most desired, I imagine what the response of old Cajun ladies would be. “Mais, chere, what you talk about chemicals? We got every kind of manure you could want.” As for heirloom plants, generations of farmers,from those who first held the Spanish land grants to those decades later, collected seeds to be used in the next planting.
So what did we do with July’s bounty of days in the forties’ and fifties’? We picked blackberries, overcoming thorn pricks and the fear of snakes by imagining the blackberry cobbler we’d have for dinner. We rode our bikes through the various neighborhoods in which our friends lived, knowing that every door was open, and if we needed anything from water to a Band-aid, it would be supplied. We swam at the large municipal pool. We walked to the public library, choosing books we’d read in shaded hammocks or high up in a tree.
In the cooler evenings, we played games and caught fireflies, or sat on screened porches under ceiling fans, listening to family stories that entered our minds and hearts and blood, creating connections that would last life-long.
When we became teenagers, we went to movies in groups, always ending at Borden’s, an ice cream place still open at the same location. We had slumber parties. We whiled away summer afternoons with, first Canasta, and later, bridge. We learned to cook, and to sew. We went to sleep-away camps.
And all this in a place where the only open carry guns were those hunters carried in the swamps and fields, and where strangers in town were spied upon by little old ladies whose life work was to make sure everyone was who they were supposed to do, doing what they were supposed to do, where they were supposed to do it.
No television, but millions of stars a naked eye could see because street lights weren’t strong enough to obscure them. We listened to TOM MIX, and JACK ARMSTRONG, and LET’S PRETEND, in which never was heard a vulgar word. We went church on Sunday, and put nickels in the poor box on the way out.
And at the same time, we went through the Great Depression and WWII. We joined the Junior Red Cross and knitted helmet liners for our troops. We bought Victory Stamps and got used to rationing.
If I were able to re-create that time for children growing up today, I would do it. Because when one Presidential candidate asks Russia to hack into another’s emails, we have sunk so low that I think only a very large dose of nostalgia is among the very few things that jut might save us.