My parents sent me to 8 week summer camps starting when I was about eight or nine years old. I never, ever wanted to go, and I spent the first 4 weeks hoping they would let me come home with them on visiting day. Inevitably, the tides turned, friendships bloomed, archery improved, and by the last day, I was climbing into the backseat of our station wagon in full-bloom grief: tears, heartbreak, the works.
But then, I would walk into my house, for the first time in 8 weeks. I would step into a bedroom that would not be this clean again for another year. There were always fresh, new socks and underwear in the drawers, maybe a couple new books next to my bed. The windows would be open and the sounds and smells of summer were part of the room, too. Maybe crying for the duration of the 3 hour ride home sealed the experience and set the scene for rebirth; being emotionally eviscerated and made whole again by some new underwear.
An opened window on an 80 degree day can make me feel like a 10 year old returning and becoming new again. So can a tuna salad sandwich on toasted bread with iceberg lettuce. A cold barbequed chicken leg eaten in front of an opened refrigerator. A root beer popsicle, my least favorite but the last one in the box. A fat steamer clam baptized in broth, then anointed in butter. Warm lobster juice from a spiny leg, dripping down past my chin, into my neck. A steaming pile of broccoli from the garden, garnished with a tiny steamed worm that hung on until the very end. Mom's cocoa roll with whipped cream and berries. Strawberry sherbet.
My childhood was not a painless paradise. But damned if the perfect summer day does its best to fool me that it was.