When I was a kid, my cousin Lin lived on a farm. During the summer, I would sometimes stay with him for a few days.
We would start the day early—before it got too hot—doing some real work in the gardens next to his house. I particularly enjoyed picking green beans. After we had picked them, we would snap the ends off and get rid of that stringy part that you most assuredly didn’t want to eat. When we had finished whatever we were supposed to do for the morning, we were free to do whatever we liked for the rest of the day. Sometimes, we would create a golf course around his house and play golf.
Lin’s father, George, not only ran the farm but he also worked full time in Kannapolis at Cannon Mills. When he came home, he would say hello and then go back out to do whatever work needed doing on the farm. After supper, Uncle George would set up the ice-cream maker. He would make a batch of ice cream, and we would help with the hand-cranking. The ice cream was incredibly delicious.
When I was a little older, my dad changed churches, and we moved to West Virginia. The town of Williamson ran up the side of two mountains. The only flat part was along the river. Our neighborhood was there.
During the summer, the Hendersons might set up a badminton net in their yard. During the day, I might go over there and play, or kids in the neighborhood might come over to our house and play shuffleboard on the court my dad had painted on our concrete driveway.
Across the street from our house was a bank. The richest I have ever felt was the day I came upon a $1 bill as I was walking across the bank parking lot. In those days, my allowance was 25 cents a week, so it seemed like a fortune. Next to the bank was a vacant lot, and, on summer nights, kids would show up there after supper to play hide-and-go-seek.
The bank was used as a home base, and whoever was “it” would lean against a bank wall and count while everyone else scattered. The game would go on until it was too dark to be fun. In addition to the enjoyment of the game itself, I liked that you didn’t have to do a thing to make it happen—it was just there. And there was no obligation. Come whenever you want. Leave when you want.
When we moved back to North Carolina, the Marshalls, a couple who went to our church, owned a house in Montreat, and, each summer, they would invite us to use it for a week. I especially savor the memory of the day my brother, Mark, and I spent what seemed like hours walking up the stream that came down the mountain and fed into Lake Susan. Sometimes our feet would be in the cool water, and sometimes we would be scrambling over rocks.
It was great because a road ran along the stream, and we knew that, when we were done, we didn’t have to do the work of going back down the stream. When we had had all the fun we wanted, we simply got on the road and walked back down.
I miss having that sense of carefree summer fun in my life.