August is coming soon. Summer seems to be winding down. Though, I doubt the heat will ease up in the coming months. There's a drought that's been going on in these parts, far longer than anyone had anticipated. I can't remember the last time it rained--just normal rain, not the stormy ones that come with the hurricanes. Although, given they way this heat wave seems to be going, a hurricane would almost be a welcomed relief...almost.
It's a dry heat, which is a nice change from the usual humidity we are accustomed to, from living so close the Gulf. Still, too much heat can drive anyone insane. The grass is brown, dry and dead, kindling that's too easily lit. Wildfires are breaking out almost daily; thick black smoke covers parts of the roads that run outside the city. The earth is scorched; the rivers are dwindling; and the harsh wind blows only dust and desperation, no relief to a parched landscape begging for respite. Times like this makes a man wonder. And when you can't leave town or don't plan on being six feet underground to escape this heat, the only thing you can do to keep your sanity is to seek refuge in the depths of your mind. Mind over matter. Sometimes, the daydreams and memories are what keep us going when reality gets too tough.
I've always liked summer. Of course, we didn't really have four seasons where I was growing up. We had two official seasons--rainy and dry, and for the life of me, I couldn't tell which was which. We had rain and sunshine all throughout the year. Of course, living by the coast, the only season we all paid attention to was hurricane season.
I luved summer, because school was out. School was drag. I mean, I liked meeting my friends and learning some new things, and I did enjoy the great food served at the school cafeteria--best pizzas ever! What I really hated was getting up for school. I was never a morning person. I struggle to wake up and I'm really slow in the mornings--still am! I'm also not a big fan of homework. So when summer came around, I was happy, because I could sleep in late and stay out a little later, hanging out with my friends.
In my house, I was loud and aggressive. I had to be. In a house full of older siblings who were mostly adults and teenagers, you had to speak up if you wanted to be heard. This was especially true when you're of the few who was just starting out grade school. Outside my house, I was a shy kid, kept quiet, and mostly followed my brother's lead. He was a year older, bigger than me, which made him think he was such a tough guy. I was faster and hardier, which made for some memorable sibling rivalry. Most times, I ignored him, let him take the lead. Other times, I'd aggravate him, on purpose, because he pissed me off or I just felt like being a brat. We fought a lot in our house, but once we were outside, we had each other's back; no one messed with one of us without getting it from the rest of us.
There were a number of boys our age in the neighborhood. A lot of us went to the same church, dreaded Sunday school and all those church play rehearsals that took up a chunk of our free time. Some of us went to the same school; others went to a private school. Summer was the only time we could all hang out together and do things we couldn't do during the school year. Of course, in any group of boys, there is a hierarchy. There's a group leader who decides what we're going to do and how things should be done. The rest of us follow; those who didn't follow risked getting kicked out or punished. And just like any pack group, a group leader's position could always be challenged.
My brother hung out with the other boys who were a year or two older. I used to tag along with him til he kept ditching me. I was up in a tree one summer when I found myself arguing with a kid from across the street. I'm not sure how it started, only we called each other names and then threatened to kick each other's butt. I think we were about 6 or 7 years old at the time. Well, he dared me to climb down the tree and meet him in the street for a fight. Now, I'd never fought anyone other than my brother before, so I was kind of nervous. Heck, I was scared. This kid was taller than me. And this being a fight, word got around quickly and a small crowd of kids gathered to see what was going down.
An older kid--I think he was a teenager--appointed himself the referee over the fight. The crowd started cheering for a fight. The tall kid pushed me hard. I staggered back, uncertain. Then I got mad, made a fist and punched him right in the cheek. He fell back, surprised. He rubbed his cheek then jumped at me, and I punched him hard again. He fell down again, then he got up and said that I was going to be sorry; he was going to get his best friend to kick my ass. He ran next door and soon returned with this big kid. Actually, he was a fat kid. Though, we were in the same grade, I knew he had been held a year back, so he was actually older. And he was the local bully to the rest of us. Now, I was really nervous.
The bully came up, gave me a dirty look and grabbed my t shirt and shook me. So I punched him as hard as I could in the face. He was surprised! So I kept up punching him in the face while he ripped my t shirt! The teenage referee stepped in, separated us for few seconds while the crowd of noisy kids were yelling all sorts of things. The bully was pissed. He came at me and tried to choke me, tried to throw me down, but I twisted out of his grasp, and resumed hitting him in the face. I was furious that he had torn my shirt! I gave him a good hard punch to the nose and he staggered back. This time, I didn't stop and gave him a quick kick to the stomach. And when he doubled over, I gave him another hard hit to the side of his face and down he went. I was about to kick him again when the teenage referee grabbed me, pulled me away and declared me the winner.
But I was furious! I was so mad that I could feel the my eyes start to water. I was pissed that the teenager was holding me back, I wasn't done fighting that bully! I still wanted to kick his ass! The bully was crying. He got up and went home. The tall kid went with him. The teenage ref patted my head and congratulated me. The crowd had gone silent. Everyone was in awe that a scrawny kid like me took on two bigger kids and won. As soon as the teen ref released me, I went home. I sat out on the porch, trying to figure out what to do. My Mom was going to be pissed off when she finds out that my t shirt got torn. I was going to get a spanking, that's for sure.
Then I heard my brother enter the side door and talk to my Mom. He told her that he heard some kids tried to beat me up, but when he got there, they were gone. But he was going to find them, and beat them up! My mother was slightly alarmed, started calling for me. And she told my brother to hush. I went inside, thinking, well, might as well get my spanking over with. But I didn't get spanked. Instead, my Mom checked me to make sure that I was all right. She didn't care that I had a torn t shirt. She only asked me to go clean up and put on another shirt. I was relieved.
My brother, in the meantime, did go looking for those two kids and he did beat them both up. And in a single summer afternoon, my brother and I became the new neighborhood bullies. The fat kid moved away at the end of the summer. His parents were ministers who were asked to lead a church in a town far away. Last I heard, he also became a minister--and he also got fatter. The tall kid and I, under the advice and supervision of the teen ref, shook hands and made peace. No grudges. We started hanging out and became friends. He was the first friend I had ever made. He's actually one of my best friends, and the one I've been friends with the longest. He's also still taller than me.
Over the course of the summer, I made more friends with the other neighborhood kids. We often played games together, explored nearby farms, and just climbed trees or built forts in the backyard. When we got older, we spent our summers camping out, especially when we were allowed to stay out later. Of course, some of us were learning the art of sneaking out after bed time. I was really good at it. Sometimes, we'd have a few friends over in the backyard, with a small fire, singing along to the songs playing on the AM radio, watching the stars. Stars are brighter in the countryside. You can see more of them in the wide open skies.
During camp outs, we'd tell each other scary stories, listened to the older kids repeat urban legends, and then talked about everything and anything--what you want to be when you grow up, who'd win in a fight between Superman and the Incredible Hulk, the annoying girls down the way. Nowadays, when we get together, we discuss adult things. We talk about politics and the environment and work--along with what you want to be when you grow up, who'd win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman, and those hotties we saw down the way.
The summer I was ten, most of my friends, along with my brother, joined the local kids baseball team. I didn't want to join, because they had practice and games on Saturdays! That was way too much work for summer, not to mention a waste of valuable cartoon time. So, I was usually by myself til practice or a game was over. I spent some time reading books or going exploring by myself.
That was also the summer teen ref got a truck. He saw me sitting by the front gate and asked me if I wanted to go to the store with him. I was excited to go on a ride with him in his truck, so I said yes and off we went to the store and back. He bought me a soda. Bonus! Later on that week, he asked me if I wanted to go to the beach. My Mom said it was okay, so off to the beach I went with teen ref. It was the first time that I was at the beach without one of my older relatives supervising.
Teen ref and his friends hung out, played games, surfed, and danced on the beach. I had a blast! It was so neat being around these high schoolers, and they were really nice to me. Teen ref took me around with him a few more times that summer. He was an only child, and I think he liked having me around like a little brother. He was the coolest guy on the block. The neighborhood luved him. He got an athletic scholarship and went to a school in one of the big cities far away. He eventually settled in a big city and he was a big hero to us--someone we knew made it out of our small town.
There's a magic that comes with summer. It's nice to be able to think and explore freely. Many days and nights are spent daydreaming, fantasizing about the future, what could be. It's a time of great reflection and adventure, of hope and wishes, believing that some day, one day, your dreams could come true. And when you're one of the boys of summer, you know that anything is possible.
Brothers and Sisters
Once was enough
I say again, once was enough
The Good Intentioned Samaritan
The thing about fathers
Veterans Day reflection
A good jacket keeps you warm and dry