When I was a kid, the local pool had specific blocks of time in which it was open to the public. A single quarter would get you into one of the two-hour sessions. Despite my extremely sunburn-prone skin, my sister and I often got our mother to let us go for both sessions. There was a 20- to 30-minute break between the two sessions in which we had plenty of time to run two blocks over to the little grocery store and grab some snacks, charging them to Mom’s account. We usually got a Yoo-Hoo and a Moon Pie apiece, snarfed them down as quickly as possible, then ran back to the pool to camp out in the much cooler ladies’ locker room while waiting for the second session to start.
My sister and I lived in the pool as much as possible during the summer. We especially got excited for family reunion time every other June. We got to have three full days in the pool with our distant cousins while the adults visited. Occasionally, I’d be so sunburnt halfway through Day Two that my mother and grandmother would ban me from the pool, so I’d stay indoors with the adults and play cards.
One of my favorite things about summer was going to my grandparent’s cabin over on Lake Norfork. My grandpa kept his boat out in the stall, just down the road from their cabin. The trip took about three hours one way from our house to the cabin, and we had certain landmarks that we’d look out for on the way:
- the “secret” Hancock camping spot,
- the confederate flag store in Imboden,
- the Belgian waffle place in Hardy that we never passed at mealtime,
- the town of Highland with the rebels that our band director eventually moved to,
- the town of Salem where I used to think was the Salem where they burned witches,
- the town of Ash Flat where the Walmart bathroom has a smell we named “crapples,”
- the “A” fence,
- the crappy laundromat,
- the dog kennels, where I’m fairly certain the dogs were used in illegal dog fighting because they were incredibly aggressive,
- the donkey house,
- the giant A-frame cabin next to the little road we turned off on to get to the cabin
Finally, we rejoiced at the sight of the green fish sign that read “Young,” cheerfully greeting us at the end of our long journey.
I always claimed the bedroom on the front porch. Despite the heat outdoors, the bed side of the front porch had a shade tree just outside, so some open windows made it a perfect temperature at night. I also liked the fact that it was on the other side of the house from my parents, so I could sit up late, reading one of the many books my grandmother had stashed in the nightstand.
We went fishing a lot with my grandfather, though he didn’t take me for a long while after I lost several poles one summer. There were spots on the lake that you could see 20 feet down into the moss and habitats of the creatures living there. We would pack baloney sandwiches on white bread.
When we got older, my father would take us out on tubes. His greatest delight was trying to fling us off those things by crisscrossing through the waves he’d made.
My absolute favorite thing about the summer though: honeysuckle. You always know it’s the beginning of summer in Arkansas when you can smell the honeysuckle blooming as the sun sets.