Summer on Oak Street was perfect, back in the days when moms kicked you out after breakfast and you played all day, anywhere you wanted. Summer back in the days when no one worried about kidnappers and rapists and sex offenders and drug dealers. When no one gave a thought about about Lyme Disease or mosquito borne illnesses and sunscreen was only for a long day at the beach, not to walk out the door.
Garret's Pond was right down the street. A decent sized kettle pond it had much to offer. Deep water for diving off the raft, small quiet pools where everyone knew the leeches lived and a rope swing on the tree that the older boys always dared each other to jump from. It had this insanely steep ankle breaker of a path from the road down to the water. An old, barely legible sign read, "Town Way to Water". Hilarious.
All the neighborhood kids went there. We'd head down barefoot, in swimsuit and cut-off jeans and spend happy hours playing King of the Raft, swinging out on the rope swing, playing Tom Sawyer poling about on make-shift rafts, diving and swimming until, floating across the water thinly, we'd hear our Moms calling us to come home.
Other days we would spend up in the power-lines, blueberry picking and exploring. It was hot there, dry and dusty, filled with wildflowers, berries of all sorts, hills, plains, boulders and brambles. It was where we played Indian, painted our faces with pokeberry, made pemmican with our blueberries and wove baskets with long grasses.
Sometimes we'd walk down the long road to the forest at the far end. Deep quiet and dappled sunlight, moss-strewn rocks and dark places, birdsong and mystery was the forest. There we'd be magically transported to Middle Earth, Sherwood or Narnia for hours on end.
Summer was our backyard. Dad had built us a sandbox, a swing and a seesaw. We'd build fairy castles and decorate them for hours with acorn tea sets and stick furniture. Our backyard was Mom and snacks out on the picnic table and iced tea with lemon. Summer afternoons at home were hanging out on the big farmer's porch reading and watching traffic go by. Home on summer evenings was a bath and a crisp, clean nightgown, catching fireflies for our nightstands, Mom reading bedtime stories and having to go to bed when it was still light out.
Summer was walking down the road to the highway overpass to see how far traffic had backed up from the bridge. Or hiking up to the fire tower on Plum Street, where, after a climb, we could see almost to the bridge, the entirety of Wequaquet Lake and even the beach. Summer was just kicking a rock as we walked home, band-aids and Solarcaine.
Summer was Sandy Neck Beach. We would load up Dad's old, red Scout with coolers, beach toys, books, chairs, sunscreen, and the hibachi and we'd head out to join the line of other 4wheel drives waiting to get out to the beach. Here Dad would stop and get out and do all the arcane magic to the tires and wheel hubs he would do so that we could drive on the soft sand trails and not get stuck. Off we'd go, out on the trail, out to the beach, to find and park at the perfect spot right at the base of the dunes. Out we'd get to encamp for the day. We would spend the day swimming until we were blue and reheating on huge beach towels. Summer on the beach was napping in the sun, dune surfing, long walks, beach combing, diving for sand dollars and playing in the tide pools at low tide. Slightly gritty meals heartily consumed because there is no appetite like that of a child on a beach. Staying until the sun slowly sank over the horizon leaving the special afterglow that exists nowhere else on earth than Sandy Neck Beach in summer.
Summer was home and home was the house on Oak Street.