Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Night Lights

As a girl, my summers were filled with Cape Cod sunshine.   But only one summer has a golden halo around it that still glows.  Even today, when I hear the very year mentioned, my heart silently whispers,  “Oh yes….”
It was the summer of new freedoms and a first love or flirtation which played itself out in the company of summer friends whose parents had beach homes too.  I  recall the usual things about a shore summer, the barbeques, the scratchy old wool blanket on the hard sand, the smell of pine paneling mingled with the fragrances of damp salt air.  I see the beach roses clawing at the beat up wooden fences running along the dunes, the grasses blown flat from the sea breeze.  Across the bay, the clapboard house that the state governor owns has a flying flag and in between the crashing waves, when the water ebbs for a moment, I hear the metal on the rope clang against the pole.  We tried to reach the house by swimming across the channel one day, my first love and I.
But more often than not, we rode together in a small yellow boat – his boat.  I remember the large deep scar with crisscrosses from long gone stitches as he gripped the wheel to steady us as we flew across the wake from the passenger ferries.  One meter up and two crashing down.  On and on we would go out of the channel to the edge of Cape Cod Bay. When we got back to shore we would pick up our game of Gin Rummy with the others or try in vain to find the cribbage pegs lost in the sand.  Later, he would walk me back to our rented house and then continue on to his Aunt’s place that had a wide front sleeping porch and cots with matching coverlets woven with maritime maps.
On Fridays, being Catholic, dinner came from the fish market,  and my best friend's mother would send us “upstreet” to fetch fried fish and chips for our supper.  That summer, the boy that worked the fryer began to wink at me for the first time, and I, blushing from the new attention, was too unnerved to even smile.  As we waited for our food,  we sat on the edge of the ancient wooden town bridge which we were not allowed to jump from (the boys were), and dangled our feet several yards above the cool water.  When a boat sailed underneath, we'ld tuck our skirts under our legs but otherwise, we let the cooling breeze pick them up until they looked like round punching balls from the corner store.  Soon we'ld stroll home with greasy white bags filled with fish and mounds of salty French fries, trying hard not to sneak any.  We ate our meal in the side yard on weathered picnic tables that threatened to nip us in the thighs with tiny wooden slivers if we dared to slide along the benches too fast to reach for a plastic bottle of catsup or an ear of hot steaming corn.
After dinner, we would walk upstreet again where my love was waiting to buy me an ice cream cone with chocolate jimmies as black as ants.  Soon we gravitated to the stone wall we brazenly confiscated from a neighbor's house.  Here, my summer friends, my love and I, congregated to banter and joke as we watched the moon rise over the dark opaque ocean.  Often I would feel the weight of my love's arm across my shoulders and when he dared, he would bury his nose for just a moment in my long hair.  An innocent love.

On Friday nights, the fathers would start to roll in, one by one, like lumbering elephants in their big sedans, back just for the weekend from stifling offices in the city.  We'ld see their bright headlights at the top of the wide boulevard that ran along the beach and for more than a few seconds, would be painfully blinded by them.  But my love knew each car by the sound of its motor, and with his head jutting out from the crowd and eyes squeezed shut as if in a trance, he would call out “Hey O’Donnell, your old man's pulling in” and sure as the soft breeze would pick up and waft the scent of the wild beach roses mingled with rotting  vacant seashells, an Impala would tick by... slowing just long enough for the named parent to toot the horn and then the lights would pass and fade into the darkness.

1 comment:

  1. Simply marvelous, romantic and so evocative of summer's past. What a wonderful post, Donna! I loved it!