fuel for the summerby Ramona Mudd
I have this memory.
And it's sort of a far flung memory. One I have likely been given more access to recently because of two things. One, a song I heard on the radio. And two, because later next week I'm heading back to Massachusetts--a trip which has found me in bed with the Bee Gees all week. As I drift off to sleep. During a middle of the night bathroom break. Lying in an early-dawn state--an earworm in my mind--Feel, I'm going back to Massachusetts...
My mom swears the hottest she's ever been is Massachusetts in the summer. She was stationed there long ago and--much like today, and particularly still on Cape Cod--there is no air conditioning in many places. The sea breeze (allegedly) cools a body down, but not always. And certainly not on this day.
It was the dog days of summer. We were sitting in the camp office. HOT. Not consciously hot, as that might have propelled us to seek relief: a cross breeze, a fan or head across the way to the lone camp building that did have A/C. No, this was hot in the way that you heated up with the day, so you didn't realize the morass of heat your skin was in. "Heating up like a lobster," my friend Misa calls it.
We were sitting in the camp office, a small little place in this world. Maybe 6' by 6'. Maybe larger. But it was a shed, basically. A tricked-out shed made of cedar, sitting on top of a hill at the end of the welcome walk, overlooking camp. But it was removed from camp, by design. To keep a general eye on camp, but also to keep the fun of camp away from the business of camp.
I was in the office, deceived by the front window into believing I was comfortable, though not really. David may have been in the office--but I think it's more likely we was scanning the Cape Cod Times on the bench out front. Rob may have been in the office or maybe it was the Amy years. Definitely Misa was there. And somebody was sitting in the back.
The back of the office was only a tiny little walkway filled with bric-a-brac. Things needed for camp by the counselors. Beads. Forms. Walkie-talkies, clipboards, pens, tide charts, safety vests--all the stuff that was needed by camp proper throughout the course of a day. Self-service, basically. The wooden screen door must have opened and slammed a hundred times a day. A sound so common you lost track of it. It became as inconsequential as the sound of distant traffic on 6A, the sound of shouts on the back field, the sound of birds in the trees.
And in deep afternoon of the dog days of summer, a soul will get tired. The film of sand on shins, dust on flip-flops, sweat on shoulders...all forgotten. The heat is a useless focus, and the work of camp goes on. I believe it was the time of day when most kids were off-campus. Choice Time, we called it. These days Choice was almost exclusively a water activity--sailing, a trip to Flax Pond, a nature art choice on some outer beach. Water...what else was there to cool a soul down?
And I have this memory. And it isn't unique to me. Everybody has this memory. Because this memory is a great one. This song is a great one.
It unites people in the way the "Star Spangled Banner" only wishes it could unite people - and the "Star Spangled Banner" unites people pretty darn well! But this? Everybody knows the run up to this song. What a beginning. What an exposition.
And there is a person sitting in the back drinking a lukewarm soda, studying a clipboard balanced on a knee. And there are two or three people working on computers, the soft click of letters being picked out on a keyboard. And sometimes, the groan of an old office chair on it's hinges. But, still. Silence.
And into this dog day, into this incredible hot silence, drifts this song in the roundly accessible key of G. The piano notes picked out and measured to perfection.
We were really profoundly unaware of each other. The hot, hot day. The internal struggles, and external. The to do lists in our heads. The scrape of a pen across a printout, the lazy flap of newspaper pages in the meager breeze.
And--as one. As everyone would do. Alone or in company. In workspaces, in business meetings, and cars, and stores and...at camp. As one we came in from our various shores and joined in.
"Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming 'round..."
Through some accident of timing and intent, two of us picked up all the "turn around"s, while others fell into the "every now and then"s. Back and forth, until the run of it was over. And I'm not going to say we sang the whole song because we didn't. Very soon after, Bonnie Tyler's voice becomes impossible to recreate for most of us and all her angry, gravelly angst, utterly out of our vocal reach...so we just let her do the rest.
We went back to our newspapers, and our to do lists, and our emails and reports. But it snapped us out of whatever laze we were in. We stood to stretch, to get a drink, to get something off the copier in the (blessedly!) air-conditioned office across the gravel way. The day wasn't any cooler after that--but maybe it was? I don't remember the temperature. But I remember it was fuel for the rest of the day--as friendship, as song, as moments are. Fuel for the afternoon. Fuel for the summer.