For the past ten summers, towards the end of June, my husband and I would board a plane and head for cooler climes in a remote village in the west of Ireland, not returning till mid-August when we would return for the start of the semester at Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College, where we were both, respectively, employed. The summer of 2019 kept us here, however, as family needed us, and family comes first. I was not sure how this would go for me, but I did know that if I could not wander the west of Ireland for a summer, there could be no better place to be anchored than Baylake Pines.
When the warm weather came in early in June, I took to spending a couple hours after lunch reading on my side porch. To be honest, nestled into a lounge chair, I did as much sleeping as I did reading, as the only sounds were birds singing, squirrels squirreling about and a breeze flapping the sunshade. It was usually the school bus coming down the road just after three that would rouse me, as children ran along the road into parents and grandparents waiting arms with everyones’ dog barking to be included in this daily afternoon reunion. Even my Chesapeake Retriever would get in on the barking act, from the front window where she has kept watch on Battery Road for twelve years now.
However, there was a change a-coming. On the Monday afternoon which followed the last day of school on Friday, June 14 I followed my routine, setting out for my usual perch after lunch. I no sooner got myself situated, than I heard a squeal of delight followed by as enormous splash, another squeal of delight with a splash, and then another. And another. I could tell this was coming from the backyard pool across the street and down a house or two. There were more squeals coming from the pool on the other side of my house coupled with something I would call reggae music that young people listen to. The kids on my block were in a serious party mode. And of course they were. It was the first day of summer vacation, as the past weekend didn’t count.
This brought back delicious memories of my own first days of summer as a child when it seemed an eternity stretched between June and September. Later that evening, my son, now 38, recalled walking home from Baylake Pines School on the last day of school and coming around the corner knowing he had all summer home, with the other four or five boys who lived close by, enjoying what the Moms on the block called Camp Battery Road. Apparently, I was sitting on the front stoop waiting for him. Moms love leaving that schedule behind, too!
So, my first joy in having a summer in Baylake PInes has been watching the children on my block and in my neighborhood revel in summer.
Another unexpected pleasure was the slow pace of days that start early to beat the heat. Up by six, I would wander around my back yard, which is a beautiful garden planted when the house was built in 1954, water this and that, pick the ripe tomatoes, or study the interplay between the birds visiting the feeder. By 8 or nine, I do one of two things. I either put my Chessie, Yeats, in the back of the jeep to take her for a swim in the bay, or I peddle my bike to the beach so I can have my morning swim, as Yeats and I worked out an agreement to take turns. (If you know the breed, you know what I am talking about.) If it is Yeats’ turn, we leave the beach and head to Dunkin Donuts to bring coffee and old-fashioned donuts home, where my husband and I sit in the back yard and have a chat. By the time I have hosed Yeats off and showered myself in the back yard shower, it is getting towards noon. Lunch is ‘round one, followed by, you guessed it, a couple hours reading and snoozing on the side porch.
I am ashamed to say I have done this, and very little else, ALL summer. It has been divine.
But there is one other thing about being ‘round here this summer. Friends who walk dogs regularly past my house and neighbors who are on the street looking after bike-riding children have taken to stopping and joining me on the porch for a chat. We know what is going on in each other’s lives. My neighbors know why I am here and not in Ireland. My neighbors know that this is Yeats’ last summer, as she has cancer. And they comfort me just in asking me How is it going, Susan, because I know they mean it.
Just last week I cycled back from the beach with a neighbor after a neighborhood book club meeting on the beach. It was dusk, and a quietness was over the streets and houses. As I came to my driveway, I stopped, and she passed, saying to me: Susan, we are so lucky to live here.
On the Fourth of July I was on the beach with most of the neighborhood for a fireworks display. It was dark by the time the show started. Each time a firework lit up the sky, I saw the silhouette of four or five children holding onto their boogie boards in the water while watching the fireworks. There was another couple, a teenage boy and girl, sharing a surfboard, watching the display, making one beautiful memory. Summertime ‘round here makes poignant memories, from the squeals of children jumping into a pool on the first day of summer to the last time you take your dog to the beach.