"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summertime is Magical

I am enjoying this summer so much for no particular reason. Here's an essay I wrote years ago that was published in the local paper. It may be included in my current wip, as the main character is a writer who gets essays published in the local paper LOL.

I grew up in one of central Illinois’ small towns; and if I let the years roll back, I can see a typical summer evening.

It was a sweltering day in mid-July and the blazing sun had finally dropped like a red hot coal below the horizon. Our supper eaten, my sister and I had no desire to stand, dripping seat, in a steamy kitchen helping with the dishes. We sneaked out the back and ran to the green coolness of our “hideout” in the yard.

At the far end of the lawn sat a wooden tool shed crowded on one side by two abundant lilac bushes. There was just enough space between them for two young girls to sit side by side, backs against the rough, white-washed boards. Beneath us grew a dense, natural carpet of tough grass and delicate clover that felt cool on bare feet.

I chewed on a clover leaf, pale green and nearly transparent. It tasted both tangy and sweet, like the lemon and honey mixture mother would give to soothe a cough. There in our shady shelter, my sister and I hunched like two rabbits, nibbling on clover leaves and tender grass shoots.

One’s own backyard seems like another world when darkness takes over. As the evening light gradually dimmed into dusk, the foliage around us blended into one shadowy blur, and our hideout became a cave. We were explorers hunting for lost treasure buried here years ago by pirates.

Unseen crickets chirped loudly, sounding very near. Lightning bugs winked at us merrily. I caught one, pretending it was a fairy sprinkled with gold dust. Holding it in my cupped hand, I felt the tickle as it fluttered to escape. It soon crawled out from beneath my fingers, and I watched it stretch out secret wings and take off, blinking its way into the night.

The evening breeze felt cool and damp and smelled of green, growing plants. Mosquitoes like the night air, too; and soon we were slapping ourselves where we felt their itching stings.

Before long we heard mother call us in, so reluctantly we dragged our way into the house to get ready for bed.

Twenty years later, I am the mother standing at the back door calling my little adventurers back to the “real” world of baths and beds and “put your sneakers in the closet.”

As they troop up the stairs, I step outside just for a moment, before they realize I’ve gone. I need to catch a lightning bug and feel the sprinkling of fairy dust in my hand.


  1. It takes just a moment to collect wonder and be transported to a place that was sacred in your childhood. It is blessed because your children too have discovered such a place.

  2. Oh my goodness this is so lovely!! I can feel the heat, see your hideout, hear the mosquitoes, watch the lightning bugs (whatever they are!!!) getting caught.

    I'm so glad this was published - it's a really sweet and evocative essay of a childhood memory so vivid it still remains.

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing this here.

    Take care

  3. This is beautiful, Karen. Truly moving. You captured the carefree feeling of summer through the eyes of a child, while reflecting its fleeting nature through the eyes of a mother.

  4. Vivid imagery. It lingers as memory does. I can see why it was published. A lovely essay!

  5. Gorgeous, Karen, it was so much more fun being the child, I still get that summer feeling when I smell lilac bushes.

  6. Brigid, For me it's newly mowed grass :)

    Ann, Thanks, I have more that I'm thinking of posting here. Sometimes I just have no ideas for posts so why not right? My other blog is for writers but this one's just for me. And whoever else wants to drop by, you never know what you'll find here.

    Theresa, "You captured the carefree feeling of summer through the eyes of a child, while reflecting its fleeting nature through the eyes of a mother." All i can say to that is "Wow!" And I hope you are writing a lot this summer.

    Old Kitty/Jennifer, LOL Lightning bugs are also called fireflies. Do you have them in England? We don't have them in Utah but they're all over other parts of the U.S. just not much in the arid Western states.

    Jerry, That was basically the message I was trying to get across with this. I'm glad you "got it" ! Thanks for your comment!

  7. So vividly remembered, and beautifully written. Those summer days really were sweltering (especially if the Mom was canning tomatoes!)and the evenings so magical--chasing fireflies in the dark--Yes.

  8. I loved this! So nostalgic and bittersweet. I tend to dwell on the negative side of my childhood. I think I'm going to examine the other side...

  9. Karen -- This is a lovely post and reminds me of my own Illinois childhood -- We lived on a farm, so there were plenty of hideouts, fireflies, and mosquitoes.

    I accidentally stopped in here instead of your other blog. Here I'm reminded of our Norwegian connection. My grandfather and his brothers' names were Ringstveit, but some changed to Twedt. They settled in Montana and South Dakota at first.

  10. Patricia, Wow do we ever have a LOT in common. Thanks for stopping by (by accident lol) and following my quiet hidden blog!

  11. Great essay. I love how you used the taste of the clover and sensation of the lightning bug's flutter in your hand to bring this alive. And I double love the idea of using an essay you wrote and pubbed as an essay of your character. Nice work, Woman!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  12. I have ancestors from Norway and the British Isles as well. I enjoyed your essay!


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