One Summer Day

As I push the grocery cart to the car, a warm gusty wind caresses my bare arms, brings the scent of lilacs to my nose, and warns of much-hotter days to come. At least two months after the last application of grit on icy parking spots, little stones still kick up and lodge in my sandals. Strong mid-afternoon light somehow winkles in behind my sunny-day glasses. I turn my head.

What’s that? Almost catching sight of something that is somehow familiar, I turn my head again. Even with squinting I can’t get a good look at this target that moves with me, but I know what it is. Seventy years’ worth of summer days are lined up just beyond the edge of my peripheral vision.

One summer day I run through the lawn sprinkler. Play hopscotch out front of a white house.  Turn over rocks in a neighbour’s garden, look for ladybugs, and tell stories about them to an audience of one. Get caught in a rainstorm on a field trip with a summer camp.

One summer day I fail 47 times to move the pedals AN INCH on my first day with my first bicycle. Cycle for hours with a school friend. Walk miles to the zoo and home again. Tour my grandmother’s sweet peas with her and hope for some of her chocolate cake. Water my mother’s bedding-out plants before school.

One summer day I breathe the stale canvas smell of our home-made tent trailer. Catch fish but refuse to cut into them to clean them. Pull leeches off my legs. Watch sparks rise from the campfire as we cook biscuit dough formed around peeled tree branches. Cut the grass for a vacationing neighbour. Watch my mother water a newly seeded lawn while she sits in a lawnchair and drinks a cup of perked-to-death coffee.

One summer day I dodge a sudden downpour. Walk to my first full-time job. Water my own garden. Stake up my own sweet peas.  Smell the distinctively fresh air of an early summer morning on the Prairies.

One summer day I bring home a baby from the hospital. One summer day I help to scatter my mother’s ashes on the farm where she grew up.

Every summer day is utterly new and yet part of a pattern. The 70-year jumble in my head is partial memories and incomplete impressions: tastes and smells and sounds. Some parts are gone for good; some surprise me as I wander around, not really thinking; some are always as present as the people I still hold in my heart.

What does it all add up to? Nothing. A life can’t be added up, but it can be added to. That’s the chance I have, not just one summer day, but every day.


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22 Responses to One Summer Day

  1. Mary Gibson says:


  2. Jim Taylor says:

    The more you remember, the more you can remember. Filing memories away ensures that they won’t be there when you go looking for them.

    Jim T

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    Should I assume that you’re the blonde kid on the right?

    Jim T

  4. Eric J Hrycyk says:

    Simply wonderful………..

  5. Lorna says:

    What Mary said! Thanks.

  6. Many more memories to be added. Nice when they come to mind jumbled up, rather like intertwined coloured ribbons. Gives us a sense of life being well-lived.

  7. Ken from Kenora says:

    What a great family photo, your dad looked so relaxed with his happy, healthy family and of course his cigar. Lynda thinks that it is Persephone on the far right;). Nice recollections of a life.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Ken – That’s funny! I’ll pass along the resemblance comment. That would be to a great-aunt . . .

  8. Tom Watson says:

    What beautiful memories!
    Thanks for sharing them and the picture!

  9. Summer apparently filters experience with a glow of relaxation and opportunities for reflection. Your photo inspires me to decorate my summer hats. Its benign mood is less assertive than other seasons but provides background music for the main events you recall. Does time slow down although the sun keeps shorter hours? The scents of sweet peas and wet earth, musty canvas and freshly caught fish are more poignant in their summer warmth. Your cascade of summer memories sets up a clear shot for the events to come, with summer rippling into view. Senses awake, I welcome them with smiles.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Maybe part of it for me is that I’ve lived only where the shoulder seasons are short, and my memories of winter (excepting Christmas) are not as happy – all that scampering from indoors to car doors – so everything outdoors gets lumped into summer. My mother loved hats that shape (fedora-ish?) and her head was in the normal size range so she could buy off the shelf. She had one in red & black plaid when she died, 55 years later.

  10. barbara carlson says:

    For a second there, with your “peripheral vision” reference, I thought you were having trouble with vitreous floaters… but no — a bunch of good times to add to this summer.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – 🙂 Yes, they were, overwhelmingly, good times. There was that time I almost drowned in a lifeguarded area on a lake, but I didn’t. I still remember looking up through the water at a hand coming down for me.

  11. Alison Uhrbach says:

    You took me back with the stories under the rocks. I remember it clearly, on errands to buy your dad a chocolate bar sometimes? with maybe a shared popsicle for us as payment? (6 cents at the time)

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – That’s funny. I remember doing that errand in Calgary (after I was 8) but not in Edmonton. Good memory!

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