The Sounds of Summer
As I pour over the ever changing style reports and line plans in my office my Spotify channel continuously plays in the background setting the tone to my day. Occasionally the shuffle gods are with me and two songs will pair beautifully together and open up a floodgate of memories, like earlier this week. I was sipping an iced green tea during a post-lunch slump and only half paying attention to the music when I heard the familiar swoosh-thump-chime-toot-swoosh-thump-chime-toot that swelled louder and louder until Paul McCartney's clear voice lamented about silly love songs in a song that was indeed a silly love song. I cranked the volume up and in a blink it was 1976.
My aunt Cynthia, an elementary school teacher, would rent a little Cape Cod style house in Ortley Beach named the Idle Hour from Memorial Day until Labor Day and my mom would take my sister and I there on summer weekends to visit. I remember exactly what it felt like as my little uncalloused feet dug into the blistering hot sand as we made our way through the beach crowds. We could hear Casey Kasem announcing America's Top Forty as we walked from surrounding radios until we found our perfect 'spot' for the day. We'd place our huge striped blanket down and my mom and aunt would weight each corner with the Candie's slides that they wore and I coveted. We'd lay on the blanket and listen to the top songs of the week. I can still picture my eight-year-old self: a swarthy child, unfortunately both chunky and frizzy-haired, running up the beach from our blanket to the lunch counter behind Joey Harrison's Surf Club. Money clenched in my sandy fist I'd pull myself up to the window and order a pork roll and cheese on a hard roll with a side of fries and a Coke. I loved knowing that as soon as I ordered the teenagers working the window would spin around and call out to the fry cook "one Adam and Eve on a raft!" Gosh, they had the BEST job I'd think.
Later on, in dormered bedrooms by the greenish light of the digital AM radio alarm clock, we'd turn on the music and play a few rounds of Crazy 8's until we fell asleep. It never mattered how hot the days were, the night air at the shore was always cool, breezy, and delightfully laced with the scent of Coppertone and fried dough. In the morning, after a breakfast of crumb cake from Mueller's Bakery, we'd walk over the pebble covered backyard that led to the dock where we would stand and plunge crab cages, baited with Genoa salami, into the bay. They must have been claw-pumping Italian crabs, because after just a few minutes we'd pull the cages back up and scream with delight as dozens of crabs clattered around on the splintered wood boards until they scurried back into the water with a splash. Silly Love Songs, takes me right back to those days of sun, sand and surf.
Back to my desk in Charlotte, I'm answering emails just as Sir Paul wrapped up his silly love song I heard the familiar loud strum of an electric guitar kicking off a little ditty ... about Jack & Diane. Now I was jamming, this song took me back to another summer, 1982.
As if I hopped into Doc Brown's DeLorean my mind quickly fast-forwarded into the decade where I came of age thanks, in part, to a little cable channel which exploded onto the airways just a few months prior and changed the way we listened to music forever. MTV took what was once only an auditory experience and made it uniquely visual. The fledgling station came to our little town of Livingston, New Jersey carried upon the teenage cries of 'I want my MTV!' and we were instantly seduced by it, 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. We immersed ourselves in the featured concert schedules, new bands, premier videos, televised concerts, interviews, and even contests. It was a smorgasbord of musical entertainment. Summer days typically ended with my friends and I hopping on our bikes and racing back to my childhood home after a day spent soaking ourselves in the sun and chlorine at our town pool to catch the latest video or concert. We were at the sweetly awkward cusp of leaving our adolescence behind and barging hormones first into the teen years. At the time it was scary and uncertain but looking back now with the perspective of a forty-something-year-old woman I realize how beautifully innocent those days were.
If I wasn't hanging at the pool with my friends snarfing down frozen Milky Ways, playing tetherball and waiting for adult swim to end, I was vacationing with my cousins up at their Pocono home. We'd spend our mornings picking wild blueberries for breakfast and ended up eating way more than ever ended up in our baskets. As we walked through the wooded pathways we'd sing at the top of our lungs, "OH YEA, LIFE GOES ON - LONG AFTER THE THRILL OF LIVING IS GONE!" in an effort to scare off any potentially lurking bears.
After the morning chill burned off we'd ride our ATV's over to the lake for a swim and stay until the sun dipped down into Lake Naomi creating a watery blaze on the horizon. We'd leave the lake and ride deep into the woods to the clearing that would bring us back to the cabin where piles of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs would be waiting. The sky would darken to an inky blackness and the evening breeze would carry the brackish smell of the lake and leaves and muddy shores through the open windows of the wood shingled A-frame house. Once we were sure all the adults were sleeping soundly we'd tune the transistor radio to the solitary rock station available up in the mountain region and sit out on the upper deck of the house under the illusion that we looked so cool and grown up smoking the Marlboro's we'd bought from the bait shop and taking shots from a bottle of Old Granddad (BLECH!) that had been pilfered from the liquor cabinet earlier in the day and hidden deep under the eaves of our bedroom. Funny, it was that same summer that I was also introduced to my first hangover. Waking up to a fuzzy tongue and a pounding head I wondered if this is what John Cougar (ahem, no Mellencamp back then) meant; is this the feeling of life going on once the thrill of living is gone?
Ha! If only.
I learned the meaning of that phrase much later in life - and it was then I realized that little ditty which always made me smile had a dark side but in my heart and mind it will always be another sound of summer and will transport me to days filled with memories of lifelong friendships, innocence, sunshine, and eternal youth.
Five years ago, just after my book was released, I wrote my first blog. It was June and naturally I started it with a lyric, "Hold on to sixteen as long as you can, changes coming around real soon make us women and men." And so I do - and I hope you do too.