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BY suzy

07/01 Direct Link
Shards of dreams slip through my fingers in the twilight between sleep and awakening. I reach into a cupboard for one of the multi-colored shot glasses a friend brought me from Venice. It is broken, yet still standing on the shelf. My fingers slide over the sharp edges. I feel the thrill of the cut up my arm, see the blood on my fingers, and close the cupboard. In another dream, I open the front door to the sunny front porch and see my father sitting there, reading the paper. He looks up at me, smiling. I wake up.
07/02 Direct Link
It’s been a miserable year so far, and it was bad from the start. I can’t wait for it to be over, though the thought has crossed my mind that maybe there’s something even worse in store for me next year. I’m the Anti-Midas: everything I touch turns to shit. I’m completely broke, my job stress is through the roof, and I can see no end in sight. I can’t get ahead. Is there someone I can surrender to? Say “uncle” and make it stop? ‘Cause if there is, I am so there.
07/03 Direct Link
My stepmother, who had a unique opinion on everything, used to say the price of divorce was “a grotty bed-sit”. What she meant was that it generally reduced one’s circumstances, but I think living in a tiny house in Oakland is pretty much living in a grotty bed-sit. If I had stayed in my unhappy marriage, I’d still be living in a beautiful apartment in Pacific Heights. Is it better to stay in a miserable marriage and live somewhere nice, or to be out of it and broke? Is real estate why some people stay married?
07/04 Direct Link
My father used to say that the UK was the one who should celebrate the Fourth of July. If they had won, all the US’s problems would be theirs. Dad couldn’t have foreseen the mess this country is in now, or this state, with its staggering deficit and unemployment. God really would have to save the Queen if she had to worry about all the American problems as well as the British ones. But today, we should think about the great things about this country instead of all its problems. We can worry about that tomorrow – and always.
07/05 Direct Link
My friend P cares for nearly twenty feral cats in her neighborhood: rain, snow, below freezing temperatures, intense heat and humidity: she never fails them. She has also been trapping and spaying or neutering as many as she can. There are only a couple left to go. It’s amazing she has managed to do all this on her own for so long. She is a truly dedicated person.

A couple of days ago, P went to feed the cats, and found one of the original cats, called Warrior Girl, had been killed by a coyote. It was heartbreaking.

07/06 Direct Link
A white butterfly hovers by the rosebush, fluttering past the bee delving deeply into the sun-warmed yellow blossom. An iridescent dragonfly zips past, its buzz and the bee’s combining to make a sleepy, summery afternoon sound. Henry the stray cat yawns and stretches, padding toward me across the dry grass. A plum drops from high on the tree. I have already collected the fruit I could reach. A lawn mower starts up, out-buzzing both the bee and the dragonfly. A wisp of barbecue smoke floats on a sea of freshly-cut grass. Sounds and smells of summer.
07/07 Direct Link
The bell clangs, as loud and unmelodious as ever, but on this day, it strikes a joyous note. The last day of school! We run through the hallways, as we are forbidden to every other day, but this is no ordinary day. It’s the last day of school! When the yellow bus drops me off outside our neighbor’s farm, our dog comes running to meet me. We make our way together through the fields and flowers, past the pine woods and the little brook, to the old white house, where Mom is packing for our trip to Maine.
07/08 Direct Link
The next day, we’d get up impossibly early. My father had a life-long habit of being up by six o’clock, the way his father did, and now our brother carries on the tradition. The early-rising gene skipped the girls in our family, who grumbled as we loaded sleepily into the car, or cars. After our little sister’s birth, we got a Volkswagen bus to transport her baby-related accessories. Dad would drive the bus, and Mom would drive the other car, which varied due to Mom’s enjoyment of driving fast and getting into accidents.
07/09 Direct Link
It was a long drive to our cottage in Maine. Sometimes we’d break the trip by staying a night with friends in Boston or on Lake Champlain. Dad had some friends who owned an island in Lake Champlain, which impressed me as a child, but impresses me even more now. They’d raise the flag each morning and lower it each night, accompanied by setting off a small cannon (something I didn’t question at the time, but now find somewhat astonishing). The evening flag ceremony was always followed by cocktails for the grown-ups on the spacious veranda.
07/10 Direct Link
There was a magical moment when we were just approaching the bridge to the island. All of a sudden, you could smell the ocean through the open car windows. My heart always leaped, knowing the many pleasures of summer awaited us. Over the bridge, down the two-lane highway, then a turn to the dirt road that led to our cottage on the lake. I always ran to the lake and dipped my hand in before joining in the maelstrom of unpacking. It was my secret ritual. It was a lucky charm to make sure it was a good summer.
07/11 Direct Link
The cottage was made of pine boards and always smelled deliciously of sap as it warmed up during the day. Downstairs, there was a galley kitchen, a living/dining room overlooking the lake, our parents’ bedroom, and a small bath. Up the wooden stairs were two more bedrooms. There was a Franklin stove downstairs, good for foggy Maine mornings, and no TV or telephone. There was also a little deck overlooking the lake. That was it. Simplicity itself. We loved it. I visited it fifteen years ago, and it was exactly the same, the door unlocked, the air pine scented.
07/12 Direct Link
The lab where our father worked during the summer was across the highway and down a long, dusty road. The lab itself was a collection of ramshackle buildings clinging to the rocky coast among the wind-bent pines. We got our mail there, and you could telephone from a booth. We were too busy playing outside to think of phoning. The lab had a dock with several rowboats. You could take one out if you’d passed the swimming test, going from the dock to the Point in the icy Atlantic waters. We all passed triumphantly, on the first try.
07/13 Direct Link
I’d wake up each morning and lie in bed for a few minutes, considering the possibilities of the day. Such a luxury of time stretched before me: three months of freedom! We left Maine on Labor Day and not a moment before, and we left for Maine the day after school ended in June. We had a remarkable amount of freedom. Our parents would let us wander around Bar Harbor together, going to the library, the movies, the Y, Bee’s, the confectioner’s. We’d stay at the beach for hours at a time. We never felt afraid.
07/14 Direct Link
The library was a wonderful place. It was a brick building on the town square. You entered a round, marble-floored foyer, with the reference room on the right and the children’s section on the left. You passed the librarians sternly at their work and went into the main library. A gallery went around all four walls, accessed by spiral staircases. There were chairs spaced along the bookshelves. I loved looking down to the main floor. It was a vast, echo-y place to a child, and a place of wonderment. I can still smell the cool, dusty air.
07/15 Direct Link
We were exploring the far reaches of our lake when we came across the hermit. We screamed and ran away, but curiosity impelled us to go back and spy on him. He seemed very old to us, and very odd, living in a shack. We had never seen a grown-up like this. We instinctively knew not to tell anyone about him. Clearly, he preferred solitude. Eventually, we worked up the courage to talk to him. He was a kind and gentle man, damaged by war and bad luck. Years later, we realized that townsfolk were helping him all along.
07/16 Direct Link
The first place to see the sun on the eastern seaboard of the US is Mount Cadillac (named for a French explorer). Every year, we’d wake up in the chilly summer darkness and trek up the pink granite mountain. At the summit, there were sweeping views across the island, the ocean, and other islands. It seemed that the sun would never rise, until the magical moment it appeared in all its splendor, lighting up the grey sea with its pink and golden rays. The colors grew in splendor and intensity as we watched, feeling part of an everyday miracle.
07/17 Direct Link
After the sunrise, Dad always took us to a little coffee shop to have blueberry pancakes for breakfast. There’s nothing like fresh, wild Maine blueberries and real maple syrup on an early summer morning. The coffee shop was frequented by locals, hearty souls who lived there year-round, through the long, snowy winters. If we were lucky, our friend R would be there. He was a tall, cadaverously thin blacksmith and artist who lived with his wife and dogs in the gatehouse of a former estate. He was one of the most interesting and erudite people I've ever met.
07/18 Direct Link
He married a debutante from Boston, whose family disowned her. They had a son and a daughter, who were both grown up by the time we met their father. He was valiantly battling bone cancer and his wife feared that having us kids around was using up what little energy he had. He walked us to the Point, where we could see the ruined foundations of the lost estate, including the swimming pool which was right on the ocean. When we passed a certain large tree fungus, he’d touch it and make a wish. My brother still has it.
07/19 Direct Link
He’d always greet us at the door. An iron chandelier he'd made hung in the lofty hallway of his big, old red house. It always fascinated me. Sometimes we’d sit with him in his sunny, book-filled room, where he had a four-poster bed. Some of his sculptures were here. It took me a little while to realize that the one closest to the bed contained a gun, pointed right at the bed’s occupant. He laughed and said that when the time came, that would be his way out. Death as art. Or art as death.
07/20 Direct Link
Another summer ritual was hiking the Bubbles, two rounded mountains that had earned the sly local sobriquet of “the Boobies”. We’d scramble up the steep, rough granite path, scattered with wildflowers, tall balsam pines, and scrubby blueberry bushes, and end the hike at Jordan Pond House. It’s a wonderful feeling to sit on the lawn overlooking Echo Lake, pleasantly tired from the exertion of the trek, hawks wheeling lazily overhead, eating the famous popovers with house-made jam. We’d laugh and talk, planning other happy days, other shared experiences which would one day become more happy memories.
07/21 Direct Link
My brother has a great gift for making friends. It’s no surprise that he made friends with a lobsterman and went with him on his early morning rounds to check the catch. Needless to say, we paid little or nothing for lobsters, and what a wonderful feast they were! Just add corn on the cob and potato salad or crusty French bread, and dinner’s served! Dad used to tease us by putting the lobsters upside down so they’d flip their tails at us, and said you could hear them scream when you dropped them in the pot.
07/22 Direct Link
My brother introduced one of the bank’s tellers to one of Dad’s colleagues. Dad’s colleague gave my brother his first boat when he upgraded his own: the small, bright yellow Sea Banana. The Sea Banana served us faithfully in the lake behind our cottage, but wasn’t up to the challenge of the rough and wild Atlantic. Feeling grateful, my brother fixed the two up – neither could resist his earnest pleas that they were perfect for each other. They have now been married more than 30 years, and they and their son still spend summers in Maine.
07/23 Direct Link
We’d pick the tiny, wild blueberries to freeze for the winter. It was a lengthy process, picking berries from the bushes and putting them in coffee cans. We ate half and put half in the cans, so it took even longer. In retrospect, it was hard work under the hot sun, but at the time it just seemed like fun. When you’re a kid, you’re never too hot or too cold, and life is an adventure. When we filled our cans, we’d go swimming. And we’d have a taste of summer on snowy winter mornings.
07/24 Direct Link
Every year, there was a lab picnic on the beach, attended by all the families whose parents were working there. Some kids, like us, came every year, others were new. But we all loved the bonfire and the clambake on the chilly, rocky beach. As the evening progressed, we’d wrap up in sweaters and play games, enjoying staying up late as the grown-ups sipped wine and gossiped about boring grown-up things. There would be fireworks after dark, and eventually we’d disband, calling out goodbyes into the dark. There was always next year to look forward to.
07/25 Direct Link
Dad often took us to the beach, but he mostly lay on the sand and read the International Herald Tribune. Sometimes, he’d venture into the chilly Atlantic, doing his characteristic dog paddle, keeping his face carefully out of the water.

When I was cold enough to come in from the ocean, I’d wrap myself in a towel and lie down on my father’s sun-warmed back. I’d snuggle my face into the nape of his neck and dream. He never once complained about having a cold, wet kid draped on him, dripping on the newspaper.

07/26 Direct Link
On a foggy Maine morning, I’d wake to hear Dad putting wood into the old Franklin stove downstairs. As the fire slowly warmed the early morning chill in the house, Dad brewed coffee and wrote letters as he sipped. He surely enjoyed the peace and quiet before his children came noisily downstairs to start the day. Mom would eventually emerge from bed sleepily, lighting the first cigarette of the day. During breakfast, we’d make plans for the day. Dad would drop us somewhere, then go to work, and it would be Mom’s turn for peace and quiet.
07/27 Direct Link
I thought Sand Beach was magical, since its sand was made up of shells instead of rocks, like the other local beaches. It also had a path which led to Thunder Hole and Otter Point, both remarkably beautiful places. I’d never tire of the spectacular majesty of Thunder Hole (and of course, the satisfying loudness of it – as a kid, you’re always being told to be quiet, so witnessing unbridled loudness was a rare treat), or the breathtaking scenery from the hundred foot tall Otter Cliffs. We were lucky to have so much beauty in our young lives.
07/28 Direct Link
The movie theater in Bar Harbor was a wonderful art deco jewel box, dating back to the 1930s. I loved its slightly musty smell, the heavy red velvet curtains concealing the screen, the plush red seats, and all the gilt details. In those days, there were no VCRs or DVDs, or internet, so if you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to the theater, or wait until it maybe came out on TV years later. It was an event in our childhood lives. I still remember how shocking sunlight was after the magical darkness of the theater.
07/29 Direct Link
There were still drive-in theaters, and sometimes our parents would bring us to a show. We’d be in our pajamas so we could go right to bed as soon as we got home, drive-ins showing movies at night, the sun setting late and our bedtimes pretty early. It was always exciting to go, even though we usually fell asleep before the movie was over. We’d wake up to our parents carrying us through the darkness to the house, then up the twisting staircase to our beds. It seemed like a dream, even when it was happening.
07/30 Direct Link
Even though it seemed that we had almost limitless time at the beginning of the summer, it also seemed that summer ended far too soon. Before you knew it, it was August, and stores were torturing you with “Back to School” sales. The library had its used book sale, another sign that summer was coming to an end. The leaves began to change in the early days of September, a sign that it was time to leave our summer lives and go back to everyday life. Soon, we’d be packing up the cars and heading away from the island.
07/31 Direct Link
At some point during the drive home, I began to look forward to being home again. It would be nice to be in my own bed in my own room, instead of having to share with my sister. It would be nice to see my friends again on the first day of school, comparing and sharing our summer experiences. It would be nice to see our old white house on the hill again, watch the sun set over the pine grove. I looked forward to the rest of the year: Halloween costumes and parties, Thanksgiving at Nana’s house, Christmas.