Who Made the Summer

This is one of my all-time favorites, and something I think about every time it gets hot for the first time.  My parents had sent me a picture a few years back of a roughly 3 year-old me, drinking from the hose, limbs all exposed to the sun. It’s around here somewhere, that picture, complete with a big, tacky, inflatable pool wrecking the grass underneath. We do our best to give our kids the kind of summers that we hope we can keep remembering. They try to legislate it all away, but they have no power against the family.

It’s around here somewhere, that summer.

 

“Papa, can I have a drink?”
“Of course you can, sweetie.”

In 1978 the water from the hose tasted like metal, and it didn’t scare anybody. Now it tastes like water, but he’s told that there’s something dangerous in the hose – don’t give it to your children. Lead, they say. We’ve been 35 years filtering and cleaning and protecting and irradiating the water for you, so now it isn’t safe because nobody thought about the hose.

“One day, someone will tell you that you can’t. Someone will always tell you that you can’t.”

“Will he be right?”

“In a way – in his way he will think he is right. In his way he will know he is right and he’ll have numbers and articles and so-called facts to make sure he keeps knowing how right he is. But his way is only really there for making you scared of something, and you can be as sure as the grass going brown that if he has children, they drink from the hose when he is out here telling you not to.”

“What does he think is wrong with the water?”

“That it is full of things that you can’t handle without getting sick, and that he can make those things disappear by making you feel lousy about them. He thinks this because he doesn’t know that you come from the same place as the water, or that you both come from the same place as the summer.”

“And my brother, too. Where’s that place, Papa?”

“That’s a tough one to answer, sweetie. I only know it’s all the same, and that even if I never know it all the way, I come closest when I’m closest to your Ma.”

In 1978, Mother clipped a shirt to the line and didn’t hear the conversation, because in 1978 the conversation didn’t happen. She just held open the patio door, and put the boy out there to find the summer in the business end of a garden hose.

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