“Summer breeze makes me feel fine…” Seals and Crofts

The summers of childhood always started here on this weekend, Memorial Day. A distinct demarcation that ended sadly, and abruptly, on Labor Day. The above ground pools that dotted my neighborhood began to open and the whole summer’s promise spanned ahead. Tiny basil and tomato plants were nestled in the ground by way of my father’s careful hands. School felt a little lighter in those end of May into mid June weeks. Winter jeans were cut off to frayed shorts. Freedom. Playing. Wandering. Simplicity.

Among the many summer memories, the trip to the Dairy Queen jumps forward. Piled into the station wagon, the lengthened daylight displaying a time we were never awake for on a winter school night. In our pajamas, three kids packed into the back of the wagon to the Summer Street DQ. Vanilla cones with chocolate dip. Or rainbow sprinkles. Little hot fudge sundaes. And my momma’s favorite — a banana split. There was simplicity in the the ritual. And it was always enough. Always.

So much of the dialing back of this 2020 pandemic has felt like my childhood. Not the germs and quarantine part. But the simplicity part. The being more home than out. The using wisely or patiently whatever we had one of. One bathroom. One car. One type of bread—Wonder. One pair of sneakers—Keds.

And one TV that offered no more than 10 channels, local and national combined, to watch baseball or Lassie. For the last ten weeks we have watched more TV together than I can remember in years. Netflix originals streamed each night, in unison taking our minds off of the dismal headlines. As we gathered around the TV, each night it brought back the childhood days of TV sharing.

During the rationing of this pandemic, no longer has it been about brands, but rather availability. The conquest and confirmation of getting a loaf of bread. A gallon of milk. A roll of toilet paper. Nothing fancy. Nothing designer. Just availability. Which has led to confidence and less stockpiling and worry. And gratitude daily.

Peaceful bike rides and walks around the neighborhood took place over these past spring days. No stores and restaurants and movies and malls. Everything closed. Replicating a childhood of simplicity without a thousand options to go here and there and everywhere.

Two weeks ago we went to a Dairy Queen. The first time eating beyond our own kitchen. I wasn’t quite sure I was ready. Hoping that it would feel normal and safe. Could I dial back to the childhood pleasure in the trip? At the drive-thru the voice came over the speaker. Since I could not see the person connected to the voice I wondered – is she wearing a mask, gloves? Was my vanilla cone with chocolate dip being compromised?

We drove up to the window. The greeter had a mask and was wearing gloves. Holding hope I waited. But when he took our credit card with the same hand he served the cone, that exposure to every credit card before us diminished the enjoyment. But I would not give up. How could I salvage the experience? I asked for a cup and spoon. I Purelled the spoon. I dumped the contents of cone into the cup. Tossed the cone altogether. Yes, I had some prep work to do, but that first DQ was worth it. A DQs taste never changes. Perhaps that’s the draw, the sameness. The predictability.

Yesterday on a much needed day trip outside of our quarantine zip code — another Dairy Queen, now two weeks later. With confidence I ordered a small Oreo Blizzard. Maybe it was the fact that the server was pleasant and wore a cheerful mask, used one gloved hand for serving and the other for credit cards. Or maybe it was me. Recognizing it was time to step out and trust. All the worry, an action taken when there is little more to do, faded just a bit.

This Dairy Queen visit marked the beginning of this summer. A different summer to be sure. But yet in many ways, the same as all the rest. As yesterday my father planted his early basil. And the summer light is with us longer. And maybe soon we will even hear the crack of the baseball bat. And clink glasses and give hugs all around. Hope.

                                                                                   Early basil …

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