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.