Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer Memories

sparks, stick, hand, american, flag, USA, United States, patriotThe 4th of July, Independence Day to us in the States and a day commemorating to the British when those ungrateful colonials started getting all uppity. If you read my blog post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, you know I see this day as the end of the first half of summer. From a citizenship standpoint, it's of great significance. But it is also a day on which I think of summers past.

One of my many favorite childhood memories is not of one particular event but something that happened many, many times. Over the years of my childhood, we had a couple of different boats that we took out on the Little Kanawha and Ohio Rivers quite often. We used them as fishing boats and also to pull skiers, but mainly we used them just to enjoy being out on the river. We also used go to something that is probably little known now. We, along with several people we knew (and many, many we didn't know), took the boat to the closest thing the Mid-Ohio Valley has to a beach.

Can't see it through the brush, but
this is the confluence of the Ohio
and Little Kanawha Rivers
On the far end of Blennerhassett Island, away from what would eventually be the state park, were little narrow strips of sand. On any given summer day, dozens of boats would tie up to downed trees and disgorge families who would spread blankets and beach towels, set out coolers and sometimes even grills, and spend the day just enjoying ourselves. Sometimes we would ski, though the ugly truth is I was a really sucky skier. I kind of became my dad's co-pilot, letting him know when the skier went down so he could circle back to him. But often, we would just splash around in the water, read, take naps, and pretty much do nothing all day. This was in the days before cell phones, so we had no contact with the outside world. We just enjoyed each other's company, along with sandwiches, chips, and cookies accompanied by the main condiment--sand.
The tip of Blennerhassett Island
as seen from Fort Boreman Hill

Eventually, often over the protests of the kids, we would pack up everything and head back to the boat ramp. After we got the boat back on the trailer, we would often stop somewhere to pick up dinner for the evening because Mom, the designated watcher and feeder of us all, often including all the cousins too, was too exhausted to cook. Sometimes, and this was always my favorite, we would stop and A & W Root Beer to pick up whole boxes of hot dogs and gallons of sweet, frost-topped root beer. I also recall stopping at Kentucky Fried Chicken or Roy Rogers (with their mythically epic sandwiches--but that's another story), but my preference was for the dogs slathered in sauce and onions and root beer so sweet it made my throat hurt.

The closest thing to a negative was that I always had this tendency to get water in my ear. Usually, I could just pound on the side of my head for a bit and it would work its way out, but occasionally it would still be there driving me crazy when we got home. When that happened, Mom would lay out a towel and pillow on the couch and have my lie down with the offending ear facing the pillow. I would often fall asleep, only to be awakened by that odd but satisfying feeling of the water, warmed by being inside my ear, trickling out onto the towel-covered pillow.

Then it was into the bathtub for me. I guess that was another sort-of negative. No matter how many baths we'd had that week, we had to have a bath after we got back from the river. If you've never swum in the Ohio River, especially back then when the chemical plants basically just flushed their waste directly into the rivers, you can't fully appreciate the level of stench that comes with you when you get out. Looking back, it's a wonder we didn't grow extra eyes or limbs or develop superpowers.

It's funny. I don't remember many specific details about any particular trip. What I mainly remember is always feeling loved and safe. We laughed constantly and there was never any question, though we didn't really talk about it, that we meant the world to each other. I've joked on here before that I grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting, but it's really not that far off.

It's that childhood that inspired Harry Shalan, a man who loves his family and believes in doing right and helping the less fortunate. Yes, he's stronger and more handsome than I am. He knows martial arts and can shoot straighter than I could ever hope to. He can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, but small ones for sure. But his values are my values. His happy childhood memories are inspired by my happy childhood memories. And his loving, dedicated family is mirrored by mine. The one way in which I'm better than Harry, though, is that you can't make a fictional family that could ever live up to my real one.

Harry Shalan's first adventure...

and his second.


  1. Used to boat and swim in the Mighty Mississippi. Oh the memories you brought forth. Doris

    1. I'm glad! I hope they were positive memories.