There is something about the changing seasons. It has always been such an exciting time for me. The anticipation. It was almost as if the lead up was better than the actual time. Summer was the time of year when the clock flew out the window. My nemesis. The clock. With its nasty little ring jerking you from sleep in the most abrupt manner. Everywhere you went. Wherever life took you, there was a clock. Ruling your days from beginning to end. And then lovely, lovely summer. She doesn’t allow the clock to rule. No, no,no. Summer doesn’t like schedules or timetables. She likes spontaneity. Laziness. Rest. She wants you to be content. Just content.
Before I started school, the seasons sort of snuck up on me. My days pretty much followed a pattern. Get up, eat breakfast, play, eat lunch, hope Mom doesn’t make you nap. And then nap, play, eat supper, assorted family stuff which may have included playing and finally… bed. I absolutely adored being a little kid. It truly is a practice time for retirement. The clock was not a big part of my life then. One big indicator for the change in a season was my clothing. I remember a cute little dress I had. I put it on one day and when I wore it down to breakfast I was sent right back upstairs to change. The dress was put away. Turns out it was a “summer” dress and it was winter at the time. It had been overlooked when my Mom packed my summer things away. But it was pink and cute and I loved it. So what was the problem Ditte? That funny immigrant lady I called M0m had some strange ideas about clothes. Now my clothes are still packed away as summer or winter. We become our parents.
When I started school, the seasons were a big part of every subject. In September we gathered big leaves that fell off of the trees. If you put a piece of paper over top of the leaves and rubbed a crayon back and forth we were presented with a tracing of the leaf. We learned all about Fall, or Autumn as it was also called. Winter brought folded pieces of paper which were cut and snipped repeatedly until they infolded and had been magically transformed into a unique snowflake. Did you know that each snowflake is unique. No two snowflakes are the same. Everyone should know that since you learn it every single year in school. Spring arrives and there are fake flowers made with pipe cleaners and egg carton cups. Summer? Well summer just comes. And it is eagerly anticipated by all. You don’t really learn much about it until fall comes and you write essays about “What I Did On My Summer Vacation.” And the cycle continues.
As the school year came to an end I couldn’t wait for the lazy days of summer, Long hours of lazy fun. Sleeping in. After ten long months of being told to hurry up I had a reprieve. I was never a morning person and I certainly didn’t manage time well. This wasn’t just in childhood. It has been a lifelong effort. I was late for school more often than not. It didn’t matter how early I got up, inevitably I dawdled until I was late. Again. I have since learned more about the whys and wherefores of my lateness. Not enough to do much about it. I just understand it better. It just made that last day of school feel as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. That first day of summer holidays was heaven. Magical almost. Waking up naturally with the sun streaming through the window. Sounds coming from the rest of the house. The big downfall was cold breakfast. My mom wasn’t much into cold cereal. It was pretty fancy for the likes of us. And expensive. We had oatmeal or cream of wheat most days and once it cooled off it was a big glob of unappealing goo. If you were lucky, it was finished off by the early risers and toast was on the menu.
There was only one organized interruption in the summer of fun and lazy. Swimming lessons. They were always in the morning. For two weeks, five days a week I spent half an hour with a group of shivering little people. The teachers were often local teens making money at summer life guard jobs. The summer of Gordie Nolan was magical. He was dreamy and was well worth the effort to get out of bed. From the time I was six until the age of ten we lived in Vulcan. The local swimming pool featured prominently in my life. Public swimming was from two until five in the afternoon and by one thirty you would find me lined up against the wall waiting to get in. There was a local rule that a child had to prove themselves in order to swim in the deep end. When you felt you were a strong enough swimmer all you did was tell a life guard. Of course I told Gordie. He blew the whistle and everyone was ordered out of the pool. Starting at one end you had to swim one length of the pool while the lifeguard walked alongside. They held a pole in front in case you were unable to continue and they would haul you out. If you made it the whole way, the crowd cheered. My older brother even congratulated me the day I graduated into the deep end. The second test was treading water for sixty seconds. It was hard but I did it. I had to. Gordie was watching. That was a proud day for me.
The Calgary Stampede was also noted every year. Watching the parade on TV. Driving to Calgary and going to the grounds. Some rides. I never understood why my parents were reluctant to come on with me. Then I became an adult. I get it now. But there was junk to eat and animals to pet and lots of boring waiting for Mom to wander through the craft and gadget area. Yawn. Now it is my favourite part. There was always a week or two going on holiday as well. Car trips mostly. Denmark in the later years. That was fun when I was left with cousins. Our camping was always beside a river or stream and often there was fishing involved. It was always a meandering journey. Often boring but then I always had my books so life in the car became magical. I remember reading Anne Of Green Gables when I was eleven. I was transported from my prairie 1970’s life to her Island life of yesteryear while I sat on the front veranda of our house. Learning to ride a bike was another moment where I felt freedom. It was a neighbours bike and she taught me how to rude. Actually she pushed me down a hill and I didn’t crash. I was so proud. One evening, my Dad called from the backdoor. There leaning against the steps was my sisters old bike. Dad had pulled it out and fixed the tires, got it into running order. It was old but it was the most beautiful sight in my eyes. That was the best summer ever. I explored that town like never before. When I was twelve Dad bought me my first brand new bike. A ten speed. By then we lived just south of town and this bike brought me closer to excitement. I could get to Suzie’s house in no time.
Summertime brought summer camp. Good Lutherans remember. Camp Kuriakos at Sylvan lake for a week. Structure and fun and God. Always the same but different people came each year. Canoes, swimming, volleyball, badminton and evening fires. Sleeping in cabins. Bunk beds and outhouses. The year I turned fourteen came the new building. Indoor plumbing and showers. Fireplaces and warm dining room. The old dining hall was torn down and the cement pad was used as a basketball court. Holding hands and shy first kisses. Playing tricks on the camp next door. Sneaking out of your bunk at night. To do nothing because there was nothing to do. It was thrilling none the less. Huddling by the lake with a few others all for the bragging rights the next day at breakfast. As my one Daughter says, a place where you don’t have to explain what a Lutheran is. And then a week at Wilderness Ranch camp. In the foothills west of Claresholm. We rode all of the supplies out and slept in tents. Cooked over a fire. Learned about the area, and God of course. Pastor Dick. If you didn’t feel good you got a shot of whiskey in a tin cup and sent off to sleep. He wasn’t your typical Pastor. Every day after breakfast we packed up the horses for a trail ride. Everyone helped out. Cleaning up dishes and helping make lunch. Water came from springs and that’s how we washed ourselves and our hair. Mountain run off so your scalp was frozen in no time. It was so much fun. Pastor Dick was usually in the lead. At some point during the ride he would pass back a plug of chewing tobacco and we would all take a chew. I learned to spit quite good by the age of twelve. Every year some young gal had a crush on one of the wranglers. I admit I was one of those gals. God and nature with some lifesaving skills thrown in for good measure. Funny thing, I ended up at Camrose Lutheran College with Pastor Dick’s oldest daughter Christy. I believe she also went on to become a Pastor. Knowing her, perhaps she is a little more orthodox than her Dad but he knew how to Preach to us kids. He had a way.
And then the motorbike. Can you even imagine? It was my brothers but it was passed down when he got a license. It was too big for me to hold up so I couldn’t kick start it by myself. We had quite a large yard. Two acres. My folks weren’t anal lawn people so I drove that baby around and around making trails and tracks all over those two acres. It didn’t leave the yard. I was much too young to ride legally. It didn’t matter though. It was never boring. Later I rode a lot of motocross as my teen boyfriend always had a couple of bikes. When my kids were young my folks had a moped that occupied their time. I have pictures of all three on that little scooter. At the same time. Maybe not so safe by todays standards but it all worked out. Mt Dad would take Britt on the back of his bike when she was five years old. He had a Yamaha 750 and they went for lots of rides together. Once he felt her slipping and realized she had fallen asleep. He had to drive with one hand as he held her on. Dad first rode in the Army and he and Mom took lots of tours when they were older. Eventually Dad would ride his bike and Mom would follow in their little camping van. I was 45 when I bought my first street bike. So much different than dirt bikes. Dangerous really. You have to be so much more vigilant. Funny thing after all those years of riding I barely passed my road test. I guess I should have done it when I was 14. Oh the rules. My grandkids don’t come on our bikes. I think it is my sons-in-law that have more apprehension. Maybe my daughters just don’t trust us. We aren’t that trustworthy. I know my girls haven’t forgotten the thrill. One day. For now they sit for a picture. Not Sweet Pea. If she can’t ride it she won’t get on it!
Teen years had a little more work involved around our home but the sleep in time was still magical. Dad off to work and Mom off to Calgary to shop, I was left to just be. Nothingness. There was never any pressure to work. I had an allowance and I babysat. Money was tight but my needs were simple. Having horses was fun but work. Junior high was just lazy and fun. Swimming holes, golf, riding around. Just being with friends and loving summer. Even rainy days were awesome. High school was when the real fun started. The days were still lazy but they drifted into parties. We would pull the turntable and speakers out into the yard and blast tunes as we sat and did absolutely nothing. I remember trying to turn an album to play the flip side. Always careful to touch the edges, I ended up warping the record. The turntable was in the hot sun and the record was so hot it bent when I touch it. To this day any tune by the band Bad Company brings me back to those lazy days in my parents side yard by the bunk house. These were also the times when Mom and Dad would go away without me and my house ripe for sleepovers and parties. I would empty the china cabinet, remove all breakables from the living room and dining room and store them in my parents bedroom. I even put the china cabinet in their room. And then locked the door. Nothing was ever stolen or broken. They always knew though no matter what I did. Once Mom moved a love seat to vacuum after a party. It happened to be in the alcove off the living room where people were having a “Caps” tournament. I was a surface cleaner. She found close to 20 bottle caps. What can I say We weren’t that good at the game.
At this moment I am sitting in my favourite chair by the living room window listening to the sounds of summer. The house is quiet. Rene’ is playing hockey, not a memory from my summers but he likes it. Our kids are all moved away. Its different now and yet the feeling is the same. Peace. No pressure. I have no idea what time it is. There is a bird calling now that I remember from days on the farm in Lomond. I always thought it was a cricket. I will putter a bit and water some plants. I will have some lunch and then maybe read a book on the front deck. I had it built years ago. It brings me back. The veranda. And later on, we will drive to the cabin where our Daughter is staying with her kids. We will go to the lake, be lazy, read and barbeque. We will build memories for these little people. In a few weeks we will ride our motorbikes to a different cabin and see other grandkids. Who are also building sweet summer memories. There will be no plan, the clock will have no say in this time. It is summer. She doesn’t allow the clock to rule.