After a couple of weeks of hot summer days which made us talk a lot about the beach, made the strawberries redden and the apartment pretty hot, it is now back to normal.
The sky is a mix of grey and blue. The sun shines occassionally and we dress for the bit of rain the weather forecast promises. After long, hot days at the office, I now find myself a bit cold and wondering, in the mornings, whether long sleeves would be better than short ones.
It is the summer I know, the summer I grew up with. As a child I spent most summers within the country’s borders. Friends went to France, Hungary and Italy. They came home tanned and talked about Lake Balaton. I can’t remember envying them, but perhaps I did.
My parent’s summer house was far from water, but close to historical sites. During our annual three weeks at the house, my dad and I (and sometimes my brother if he was there) would drive the hour+ to the beach once or twice. My dad would hide the car key in his shoes and pretend to be a sea monster. I would never be quite ready to leave when we had to go home. On most other days we’d work on the house (it was more like a ruin than a house) or drive around to places where people had been before us and done such good (or bad) jobs that they were rewarded a place in history. I can’t remember hating it. It was the way it was, it was what I knew. I have never been on a vacation with my parents that was just beach-y and I have never gone on one on my own.
Just before lunch today, feeling a little cold and tired, I made myself a cup of black tea, whitened it with milk and sweetened it with sugar. I gulped it down remembering cups of tea in the damp and cold living room of my parents’ summer house with part rain, part sun outside the windows. I remembered being far away from everything. We would fight over the radio: I wanted to listen to music, my mother wanted to listen to the news. There was no TV. I would always be sad before going realising I would miss out on so many things on TV, but I always forgot the minute we got there. It became a tradition that my mother would buy me a summer book at the local book shop. I remember the summer I lied on my bed and read the first three Harry Potter books. And I remember the summer I read Red Azalea. As I grew older the important packing questions were not about how many bathing suits and bikinis to bring, but what books to bring. And if you didn’t have enough books with you, there was always “the library”.
“The library” were all the books my parents had inherited from their parents and old aunts and hadn’t known what to do with. They were true summer holiday books: easy reading. During those rainy days I got to know Peter Wimsey (and to love Harriet), I learned that my grandmother was right when she said that the definition of an Agatha Christie novel is a murder per page. When we packed up the house, I insisted we take all the books home. I got my hands on Whisky Galore and gave it to J the very first Christmas we knew each other. (I admit to being a little nervous. I was quite sure he was the one, but what if he wasn’t? Can one take back a present?)
My parents sold the summer house 6 years ago when my dad had heart surgery for the first time. They asked my brother and me if we wanted to take over, emphasising that all responsibility would be ours and ours alone. We passed. I was 23, had just met J and didn’t know how to have a summer house when I had no money. My brother had married a girl with a family with family houses of their own. Taking over didn’t seem an option.
I still regularly miss my childhood’s summer house. I am sad my children will never see the place where I spent so many happy hours during my childhood. I am sad J never got to see it. Even though I sometimes regret it, I think letting it go was the right thing. When I am sad and miss it, J comforts me and reminds me that one day we’ll have a summer house of our own. And one day my children will recall the summers they spent there and the no TV and the Agatha Christie novels and hopefully they’ll cherish the memories like I cherish mine.