The Summer Place — A Reprise
Looking forward to these months at the Summer house keeps me going all Winter.
The physical conditions there are ideal. The peaceful bay across the road features sunsets in bright pinks, lavenders and blues .
The house is a lovely new, sun-filled, air cooled contemporary. The inside is all white – white walls, rugs, sofas, tables .
From the abundant windows a , deer can be seen feeding in the lush woods. Just a few miles away is the ocean .
A soul grown mean during the school year from too much driving, too many phone calls, too much wash, too many deadlines could be restored in this light, bright white land.
My family of six includes a 19 (F), a 16(M), a 12 1/2 (M),a 7 (F), and a 50(M) , my husband who makes it all possible. He was at the Summer place as his work allowed. Of the four children, one or another was absent for short periods to go abroad, to remain in the City studying the Dance, to go to camp. By mid-July, all were here , eager to capitalize on the job opportunities as well as the. fun and romance of the Summer .
12 1/2 has an entrepreneurial bent. To encourage such constructive instincts, we decided to set up a stand to sell clams. I dug clams at low tide for three days to amass an inventory.
Firm believer in advertising, I scrounged wood to paint signs. “FRESH CLAMS” proclaimed the two signs – one facing East , one facing West. Holding one sign to which he had nailed a long stick and facing the East bound traffic, 12 1/2 called out “FRESH CLAMS”….. No one stopped….Well one man slowed down; another slowed down slower and asked “Chowders”? “Littlenecks” answered 12 1/2. The next door lady did come to a full stop. She said that she loved fresh clams and would buy a dozen. Kicking 12 1/2 inconspicuously, I insisted that the dozen choice clams I selected for her were a gift from us . when she left, I paid 12 1/2 the $2.00 we were to charge.
After that business dropped off. The problem was our poor choice of day on which to open a clam stand. Clams sell well on the weekends, We set up shop on Monday… We ate the clams.
The needs od a 7 are simple.7s don’t date, shower, work odd shifts, or have a learner’s permit. Usually they sit on the beach making sand castles and collecting shells. But a 7 with double digit siblings has learned there is more to life. Early on, 7 learned the word “bored”. To her it means the absence of play mates. We spent a lot of time locating other female 7s who we would pick up nd bring to our house. Frolicking happily together , in and out of the white house with their sandy feet and dripping suits, the two of them would soon appear at the door and chorus “we’re bored ” ! There was a weeks respite from ennui when 7 went to Bible School. She did arts and crafts, leaned songs, and explained the conditions for Salvation to me. The Library had a Summer reading program; 7 was among the four children who read over 20 books. Mainly, 7 logged mileage along side me as we drove the others to and from their jobs.
My 19 is a lovely girl – slim and beautiful with rich chestnut hair flowing down to her waist. She has a gentle refined demeanor. A student of the Dance and World Religions, she found employment as a waitress in a diner . Devoted to her art and fearful of losing her stretch, she was at first, reluctant to leave her classes in the City. But a loving mother’s logic can be persuasive. When I didn’t send her any money, she arrived. It was touching to see the pink return to her sun-starved cheeks. The diner’s steaming kitchen seemed to agree with her.
Tips earned in a diner are not the highest on record- even on those vein-popping days. Accordingly, the girls will work in more than one eatery. With a computer calculating the permutations of the various shifts in the many establishments, one could conceivably have four jobs. This is especially true mid-August, when the college students who have been slaving since May, depart. Panicked by the prospect of being help-less by Labor Day, restaurant owners will hire anyone who can fog a mirror.
Intelligence on the best tipping places spreads rapidly. There is a movement among the girls to the better places. My 19, heard of one such place and hastened to get hired there. She was able to work the 11AM to 4Pm shift, while keeping her 5PM to mid night dinner job also. I should mention that dressing for these jobs is difficult. Each place has its own ‘look’. One might need black skirt/white blouse for one, brown skirt /tan shirt for another, white uniform/red apron, still another.. harem pants, toga – the combinations are endless, At the end of the season, the Thrift Shop shelves have been picked clean.
A typical day would find me in a parking lot, waiting for 19 to finish her early job, the costume required for the next shift hanging in the car . Splotched with garlic butter, she would appear, too tired even for the driving practice she needed to pass her third road test. I would drive to the next job. “Be here at midnight” she’d say as she replaced her shoes on the beautifully arched dancer’s feet she’d been massaging. I’d watch as she ran to the powder room to change costumes. Was this anyway to raise a lady, I wondered. ??
16 arrived at the Summer place after a month’s visit with family friends in Germany. His concept of preparing for a broadening foreign did not include brushing-up on his German, nor studying points of interest he was to visit, nor reviewing the socio-political structure of the country. Rather, 16 spent days prior to his departure transferring his Rock music collection onto a recorder which he religiously carried with him all over Germany. A naturally taciturn fellow, his case of jet-lag irritability upon his return was characterized by an even greater annoyance at the question everyone asked of him “How was Germany ?? ”
But he soon got into the swing of things and found himself a job in the kitchen of another restaurant. A person who works as hard as 16 is the employee of resort employer’s dreams. Driving him to work at 7AM, he would animatedly describe his plan of attack for the day “I’l have the floors mopped and dining room in order first. Then I’ll clean up any left over pots and dishes. When the manager and cook come in , I can start the vegetable prep ” It sounded like hard work to me, but 16 really liked the job. He did his work so “no one bossed him around or bothered ” him. 16 could listen to his music so long as it couldn’t be heard in the dining room..(They must have a sound proof kitchen).
Along with the casual atmosphere, 16 could have anything on the menu to eat. The chef made him four-egg omelets . In the course of any day, he’d consume innumerable burgers with bacon, slabs of cheese cakes, quarts of orange juice . In truth, my food bill dropped.
Disheveled and bedraggled from his labors, 16 would shower and stretch out for a few winks before he made some calls to locate the evening’s beach parties. Sometimes he even woke up to attend one.
The ragweed is blooming and pre-season football is already among us. My husband, mostly deprived of the fresh air and sun, looks curiously fit and relaxed- (much better than I) as he joins us for Summer’s terminal days. 12 1/2 is negotiating with a local farmer for the purchase of a quantity of pumpkins he will sell at a stand on a corner at the other house. 7 lies on the sofa with a wet towel on her 102 degree forehead. 16 has gone to football camp with his high school team . 19 is working round the clock at the now help less restaurants. In her free moments, she packs into rolls, her quarters, nickels and dimes.
I have shucked and frozen the last of the clams, removed the finger and footprints from the white walls and floors, waved good-by to the final house guests.
I’m tired from my vacation, but the prospect of 19, 16, 12 1/2 and 7 returning to school brightens me. I miss the other house ; its old and dark, but familiar.
In a place like that, one could restore a soul grown mean from……