Summertime and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your dad is rich and your mom’s good lookin'
So hush little baby, don’t you cry
One of these mornin's you’re gonna rise up singin'
Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take the sky
But till that morning, there isn’t nothing that can harm you
With daddy and mommy standing by, by, by, by
Jazz great Sarah Vaughan must have been inspired by a day like today when she first sang “Summertime” back in the 1940s.
You will almost hear her sassy voice singing as the slight wisp of a breeze stirs the stagnant air in the late morning as the mercury eases its way toward the 100-degree mark.
Summer has finally arrived in the Central Valley.
You almost feel sorry for those who retreat inside sealed stucco tombs where the humming of air conditioning units straining in the sun effectively drowns out the sweet music of fluttering leaves.
This is the type of day meant for working up a sweat or to simply retreat under the apple tree and take five stretched out on the cool grass as your thoughts stray back to days of walking barefoot in a creek enjoying the cool sensual feel of icy sand oozing between your toes.
It was a time when you couldn’t wait for summer. It meant freedom to hop on your bicycle and explore the great unknown.
Sand lot baseball filled the days and not video games.
The heat was never viewed as the enemy.
Instead it was seen as a barometer of good things to come — shelling peanuts from a gunny sack on the back porch with your buddies, enjoying the summer treat of watermelon as the sticky juice trickles down your chin as you spit the seeds on to the lawn, and sleeping out in the back yard under the stars.
It was a time of idle chat and making big plans.
Nothing compared to the sheer pleasure of being snuggled under a blanket as the chill of night chased away the remnants of the 100-degree day while either pondering the big questions of life such as what would there be if there was no space and stars or simply engaging in sub-sophomoric pranks and jokes.
The imagination went wild. The questions and exploration never ended. The possibilities were endless.
Vacant lots beckoned to create dirt forts complete with tunnels. You and your friends would amaze each other with the things you could build with a hammer, a couple of nails, and scraps of lumber.
If you were lucky, your mom would pull out the rock salt, grab the vanilla, break eggs and mix in other wonderful ingredients and let you divert your endless energy into cranking the arm necessary to churn all the stuff into what Dreyers can’t even come close to replicating.
You couldn’t wait for the day when you were “old” enough to help your grandparents with fence posts and such on the ranch or tag along with dad to work. It was considered important stuff. You were coming of age although your voice was still years from lowering.
It was a time of falling on your face. It was OK to have Walter Mitty moments just as it was OK to imagine yourself as Willie Mays when you picked up the bat, sliced the thick mid-day air with your swing, and took off running down a baseline marked with trampled weeds.
You never wanted the day to end whether you were being lazy or intently getting involved in a distraction as spellbinding as pitting your wits for hours against a lizard zigzagging through a field.
You almost pity kids who have never enjoyed such pleasures.
The heat never bothered you as you saw it as a perfect excuse to do anything you wanted whether it was running through the neighborhood playing hide and seek at dusk or simply becoming engrossed in a book such as “Tom Sawyer”. Spending time with a book in summer almost always led to trying to replicate what you read such as creating a raft that never seemed to make it more than three feet down the creek before falling apart and sinking.
And the best part is you could get up before the crack of dawn and go non-stop until long after darkness chased the sun away.
It was freedom. Living couldn’t get any better.