During the magical summer I wrote about in my last post, I was as free as I’ve ever been, before or since, in my life. I was up with the sun and spent my entire day and most of the night outside, returning only to eat, change clothes, and catch a quick nap. For someone who spent most of her life being a bookworm and hiding inside to read, that’s saying a lot!
The condos in which we lived seemed to me like they were on the edge of civilization. There was a large patch of woods behind them, with a pond where, rumor had it, an alligator lived! And a train track went through the woods, and it was dark and green and sweet smelling back there. I got poison ivy more than once that summer.
One night my friend and I snuck out of our homes and went prowling around the woods. We came across a stopped train, and started climbing up on it. The train started, and Rhonda immediately jumped off. It took me another moment or two to gather up my nerve before I was able to jump off. When I did finally take the leap, I rolled a few times and landed right in a patch of poison ivy.
I spent hours that summer trying to learn how to do flips from the diving board. I never did master the art of the flip, but got a good belly-buster more than once, as I didn’t curl up tightly enough and my naked stomach slapped the surface of the water with incredible force. I did learn how to dive, though, and felt good about that.
I loved going to the swimming pool around 1 or 2 a.m. The pool was usually deserted, although my father or a friend might accompany me (depending on whether I was there legitimately or without permission). The lights were dim, and the water had soaked up the heat of the day. Then, in the cool evening, slipping into the swimming pool was like bathing in soft, warm silk. I loved those quiet hours when I floated silently in the pool and felt the breeze blow across the water and watched the stars.
I spent a lot of time in the woods and by the pond, and never did see the alligator. I had my first French kiss in those woods (and it was so disgusting I thought I’d never want to do it again!).
I briefly took up smoking (one of the 3 times I’ve tried it) until my brother found my lighter and set my carpet on fire. It didn’t cause great amounts of damage, and I was too dumb to realize what could have happened. I think I was grounded for a month, but snuck out every night.
My mother told me, years later, that she and Dad knew I was sneaking out at night. I thought I was so clever, waiting until they had gone to bed and then silently slipping out the front door, leaving it unlocked so that I could get back in later. She said, and she was right, that it wouldn’t have been nearly as much for for me had I know I had their tacit permission. I had the fun of being outside and the sly pleasure I took in getting away with something.
There has been a lot of ugliness and a lot of pain and sorrow in my life. I’m glad that I had that magical summer–there was even ugliness then, but it was surrounded by so much pleasure that it tipped the balance.