It was past 8:00 p.m., and I was coming home from work, still dressed in a shirt, tie, and slacks. To lighten the mood, I turned on some tunes and rolled down the windows. Cool, fresh air intermingled with nostalgia and honeysuckle washed over me; it made my skin tingle and transported me to simpler times. Hello, summer.
Taking an evening drive in early summer is indescribably beautiful; it’s crisp air, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and the sound of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. In a world that spins faster and faster, a drive in late May or early June is like hitting the pause button. It’s the spiritual equivalent of your favorite pair of jeans.
I remember riding in my Dad’s old pick-up truck, cranking the window down to let in the fresh air and let out the cigarette smoke. My Dad’s truck was not “old” in the endearing sense; it was falling apart and held together by shadetree ingenuity, duct tape, and divine intervention. One night I rode with my Dad to visit his friend, Lucky, wearing a muscle shirt emblazoned with glittery letters that spelled, “King Tut.” Apparently, Ben Franklin fashion was inspired by “The Bangles” that year. I drank Orange Crush from a glass bottle as we bounced along field roads. Along the way we saw a snake, Dad pointed it out and told me it was a “Blue Racer.” Lucky passed away last year, and I thought of this on the way to Morgan’s Funeral Home (I did not wear my muscle shirt).
The summer evening is a time to relax and reflect on the day. There was nothing better than riding home from a Little League game with dirt on your uniform, snow cone syrup on your lips, and the sound of country music on the radio. I’ve never been freer.
In high school, I worked for my Ag teacher in the summer. It was brutal work. We walked cotton fields from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., stopping only to drive to the next set of fields. Lunch lasted as long as “Paul Harvey News,” and took place under a shade tree. It was like working in a blast furnace; the only distractions were muddy fields, and mosquitoes so big that you could feel them land on your back. One country store, possessing two gas pumps and canned goods covered in dust, displayed a sign that read, “Missouri State Bird.” It featured a picture of a mosquito. Your reward at the end of the day was to kick off your mud-covered boots, crack open a Gatorade, and enjoy the summer breeze on the ride home while dreaming of the dinner your Mom left in the oven. Our peace was purchased and paid in full each day.
When I roll down my windows this time of year, it always takes me home. A flood of memories accompanies the evening air. It’s fleeting, but beautiful, like so many great things in life. I’m looking forward to making new memories this summer, and I hope do too.