It’s a nice and sunny day out. The temperature is around 75 degrees and there’s a nice breeze. Not bad for St. Louis, Mo weather in September.
“Honey, check on the boys, make sure they’re not burning the backyard down,” Renee yells from upstairs; she’s always thinking the worst.
I go to the patio screen door to check on our boys, David Jr., 10, Hayden, 8, and Devin is 6. I’m reminded of a summer I spent with my childhood friend Alex. I’l never forget how much fun we had.
I used to tell my boys the story when they were younger. They would get so excited that they wanted to hear it over and over again.
“Hey Dad! come hangout with us out here,” my oldest DJ yells while holding the water hose in his hand aimed at his brothers, keeping them in line.
“I’ll come out, but you guys have to put the hose down.”
“Will you tell us the story?” Devin asked, smiling revealing his missing front teeth.
“Sure, I’ll tell you the story.”
We gathered around finding a nice spot in the backyard. I figured Renee wouldn’t mind as long as I didn’t allow the boys to burn the house down; she always exaggerates. Now that I had the boys’ full attention, I was ready to share the summer I’d never forget.
I was excited that school had finally come to an end. Summer vacation could finally start. It felt like I’d been in school for a lifetime, even though I’d only made it to the seventh grade.
“You have plenty more years of school left,” my mom would always remind me.
Just so you know, I didn’t mind school. I was a straight “A” student. I had lots of friends. I even played sports and was liked by most of my teachers. There’s just something about being on summer break that tops almost everything else.
The freedom of staying up late, and not having to worry about having to attend Mrs. Price’s social studies class. Social Studies as a subject wasn’t bad at all. But having to listen to Mrs. Price go on about her stupid cats and their cute little sweaters, now that’s a different story.
I had my summer vacation all planned out. I was going to hang out with my best friend Alex LaPorte. We planned on riding our bikes to the park, play some basketball and spend all night playing video games. I figured you couldn’t go wrong having a plan.
The first day of my summer vacation I awoke to my mom and Great Grandmother in the kitchen baking for the church bake sale. I had to find a way to get past them before they found something for me to do.
This wasn’t going to be an easy task but I knew I had to try or my summer would be ruined. Plus, I didn’t want to be stuck with a bunch of old ladies all morning. That wouldn’t go down in the book of cool. And I didn’t plan on spending my entire summer break being teased by my friends.
I quickly grabbed a pair of basketball shorts and a t-shirt, then ran, slightly tip toeing to the bathroom to jump in the shower. Even though it was 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday, that was considered the best time to get started with my day. Unfortunately, my luck was about to change. As soon as I turned off the shower, I could hear my mom yelling from the bottom of the stairs.
“David! When you get dressed come downstairs. We need your help.”
I knew it; my day was officially over before it even began.
After I got dressed, I headed down to the drill sergeant also known as my mother to find out what manual labor she had in store for me.
“I want you to ride to the church sale with us, and help setup our pies. You never know you might find something worthwhile,” said Mom
This was her way to get me excited about not doing what I wanted. I simply nodded my head in agreement.
“I know what you’re thinking, but, David, your Great Grandmother would love to spend time with you. There aren’t many kids your age that can still say they have their Great Grandmother in their lives; you should feel blessed,” Mom said really laying on the guilt trip.
Deep down I knew she was right. I mean, she’s a mom, of course she’s right. No matter what the topic up for discussion, moms are always right everybody knows this. But that didn’t mean I had to like it. I was led by my mom into the kitchen where my grandma was putting the finishing touches on her sweet potato pies and upside down pineapple cake.
“Welcome to the land of the living,” said Great Grandma. “At your age I would’ve had breakfast cooked, the kids ready and off to school, the house cleaned and dinner started.
There wasn’t school on Saturday, I thought as she went on.
Always remember that there’s always something to be done around the house. Don’t be a lazy boy; it’s easy to become a lazy man,” my Grandma stated as a matter of fact.
Even though my great grandma was right, that didn’t mean I had to acknowledge it. I had plenty of time to be responsible. Isn’t that what my adult years are for? And at the moment I had about six or seven more years left to be a lazy boy.
We gathered everything together and loaded it up into the car.
“Hey Mom, since we have to ride pass Alex’s house on the way, can he go with us?” I asked not wanting to have to be tortured all by myself.
“Sure, that’s fine with me. When we get there, I’ll go up to the door with you to make sure Mrs. La Porte is fine with him coming with us.”
Once we were at Alex’s house, everything worked out and Mrs. La Porte even agreed to Alex spending the night. Once we made it to the church there were people everywhere. Most of everyone I knew from the neighborhood.
“Hey! Let’s go over to the tables and see what’s for sale,” Alex said eager to see if we would get lucky and find something worthwhile. I was, of course, full of doubt.
“Okay! But I doubt we’d find anything considering we got here a little late,” I stated.
“Take these pies with you and don’t get into any trouble,” my mom yelled as if she still had to say such a thing.
After putting the pies down near Mrs. Crop, we started our exploration. At first nothing but old clothes, coats and shoes, and what looked to me like junk. It was stuff that people refused to throw away. Telling anyone that asked how this or that held such sentimental value.
“Look! Over there, underneath those boxes, I see something,” said Alex curiously.
We started peeling back all of the stuff at the end of the table, and we came across these really old looking books. But the weirdest thing was when we opened the books, the pages were all blank.
“What kind of books are these?” Alex asked as if he was hoping I had some sort of clue.
They were leather bound with some sort of twine. Something you’d find in an Indiana Jones movie.
We both sat there flipping through the stack of books, hoping they hand an interesting story to tell. But nothing but blank pages.
“Once upon a time, Alex and David spent their day at the batting cage practicing their swings,” I said, still with a little bit of regret at how my summer was shaping up to be a dud.
All of a sudden the words coming out of my mouth started appearing on the pages.
“Alex, check this out!,” I yelled as pulling on his arm to get his attention.
“How did you do that?” he asked as if it was something I had control over.
“I don’t know,” I spoke back in a sort of trance.
“Keep talking to the book, let’s see what happens next. Is there a microphone on this thing?” We both laughed at how ridiculous that sounded. But then again, could he be right?
“Here goes nothing,” I said to Alex, letting him know we should brace ourselves, for we did not know what may happen next. “Once upon a time, Alex and I were at a batting cage.” I spoke the same words as before and they appeared on the pages of the book.
“Keep talking!” Alex shouted almost loud enough for the world to hear.
Suddenly, a gust of wind swept up from out of the book. Instead of being at the church, we were hitting balls on a real baseball field. People were in the stands cheering us on; it seemed that whatever you said out loud while holding the book in your hands, it came true.
We were dressed in Cardinal uniforms, and we were practicing with some of our favorite players. It was the most amazing thing ever.
Alex and I couldn’t believe it. We were professional baseball players and barely out of the seventh grade. After what seemed like a few enjoyable minutes, somehow we ended up back at the table at the church sale. Just in time because my mom came around the corner to check on us.
“What are you boys up to?” she asked.
“Nothing much, just hanging around,” I said, trying so very hard not to look like I was having the best time of my life.
She’s on to us, I can tell, I thought to myself as my hands began to sweat.
“Okay! Now don’t get into anything.”
“Hey Mom, how much for this book I found?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t going to be more than what I’d brought out of my allowance.
“Well, I think the books are going for a dollar.”
“Here, I’d like to purchase this book,” I said as I handed her the crumpled dollar bill from my pocket.
After I paid, Alex and I couldn’t wait to see what else the book could do. I imagined the adventures were endless as long as we had the book. It was a secret that Alex and I had promised each other we wouldn’t share with anyone else, not even his gold fish Rex. Once the church sale was over, my mom stopped for ice cream and we headed home.
“Hey Mom! Can Alex and I camp outside in the backyard?” I asked, hoping she’d say yes, so Alex and I could have some privacy.
“Sure, as long as you guys are careful, I don’t mind.”
We stopped for burgers at “Chuck A Burger” on the way home. Before we knew it, we were pulling up in the drive way. We ran upstairs to grab our sleeping bags and supplies. I suddenly wished my dad were here instead of being away on business.
Once we got everything, we headed out into the backyard. It was around 9:00 p.m. when my mom came out to check on us.
“How’s everything?” she asked.
“Everything’s great out here, Mom,” I replied to quickly get rid of her. After that it was just me, Alex, and our magical book with the empty pages.
We just started shouting in unison all the places and things we wanted to do and see. We couldn’t believe that no matter how fast we spoke the book was able to keep up.
Because of the book, we were able to travel in the blink of an eye and not be gone long enough to be missed. It was awesome. We were able to go to the top of Mt. Everest and touch the sky. It was better than when we talked about it in Social Studies class. It was amazing how the wind was blowing. It almost felt like we were able to soar in the sky with the birds.
We spent so much time going in and out of the book that we would sometimes lose track of what was going on in the real world. Once, we were swept away by a gust of wind that landed us at the home of retired basket ball player, Karl Malone. He played for the Utah Jazz and his position was power forward. He’s one of my dad’s favorite basketball players.
On another adventure, we ended up meeting Jerry Rice who played for the 49ers. These where people that I never thought I’d be given an opportunity to come face to face with.
Jumping in and out of the many adventures we were able to explore, it didn’t take long for the summer to fly by. Before we knew it, it was time for school to start back up again. No more late nights. It was time to get back to our normal lives.
Alex and I decided to bury the book in my backyard and never to speak of our summer to anyone. We made it through the school year, and once the following summer rolled around, we were ready to dig up the book for another wild ride.
We got our shovels and began digging, only to find that the book wasn’t there. Alex and I were confused. Where could the book have gone? Or was the entire summer just a figment of our imagination? Alex and I decided that even if the book was just a dream, we still had the best time ever and that summer will always be the best summer ever.
“Dad, whatever happened to the book?” Asked Devin.
“I’m not sure son.” I smiled.
“Guys come in and eat.” Renee yelled from the kitchen.
“Dad?” Hayden stopped me as we were gathering everything preparing to head into the house for the night.
“You know David and I know that your story is really about you using your imagination?”
I smiled admiring how grown up my boys were. My story really is just about me spending family time with my boys.
“I guess the only thing I can say is you and your brother got me figured out.”
“Yeah dad, we do.”
“Do me a favor and keep this between us. I don’t want to ruin in for Devin.”
“Sure thing dad.”
*A Summer I’ll Never Forget is a work of fiction, is a work of creative fiction.