If you could go back in time to a single day, or maybe just pick a few favorites to revisit, what days come to mind? As I remember some of my favorites, I think of summer. Always summer. The days I remember have in common their ordinariness. My ordinary summer days were perfect in their simplicity and in a feeling of contentment that comes over me when I think back on them.
When I hear certain “oldies” on the radio, -- early seventies songs like American Pie, Sunshine, and Dancing in the Moonlight -- I am transported back to lazy summer Saturdays when I was seven or eight years old. Grammy Mac, my mom’s mom, had a house at the top of a hill on an old country road in Palenville, NY, in the foothills of the Catskills.
Grammy and Grandpa had move up from the City -- as in New York City, which was the only City we knew. In the summertime, their City friends, mainly the O’Roarke family, would come up to visit. In addition, the summer bungalows around her house would fill with other City people, who came up to Palenville for the peace and beauty of the Catskills in summer. The bungalow neighbors had a hammock that hung between two giant pine trees. At seven or eight years old, it took me half a summer to learn to sit in it without toppling out on my head.
I remember feeling entirely free when I hung out at Grammy’s. I would disappear for what seemed like hours to go hiking through the woods to pick blueberries. I would return covered in scratches and bug bites, with a tiny bowl of sweet little wild blueberries, feeling so self-satisfied.
Grammy’s house was filled with noise and activity when the O’Roarke’s were in town, but what I remember most was the music. Ellen O’Roarke played guitar, and the highlight of those summer nights was out on the porch, singing folk songs, and listening to the laughter of my family and their good friends. We’d sing all of those 70s songs, along with churchy tunes like, Michael, row the boat ashore. I still regret that I never learned to play guitar. And music still has the power to transport me back to 1971, like it was yesterday.