Samantha A.

Summertime in December: A Memoir

One night after dinner, amid all the hustle and bustle of wrapping presents, filling the house with evergreen, hoping desperately for a snow day, and searching the attic for Christmas tree lights, I was hovering over my brother, Alexander, as he tried to download DVD burning software.  As Alexander was summoned outside to help my parents bring the Christmas tree into the house, I remained in the living room clicking around on his lap top.  All of the familiar items were on his desktop: AIM, Snood, Microsoft…and one item I did not recognize labeled “NJ.”  Double clicking my way into the folder, I heard my father’s grunts of exasperation.  He was attempting to maneuver an obese Christmas tree through the front door, guided only by my little siblings, Hannah and Thomas.  I scrolled through pages of thumbnail images until I found something that caught my eye: a video icon.  Intrigued, I double clicked.

Suddenly, the hum of Christmas carols and the frost of winter melted away, replaced by the gentle hum of the surf and the sharp trill of the lifeguard’s whistle.  Grinning to myself, I watched as my uncle paraded around the beach filming a mockumentary on Alexander’s camera.  There was Thomas, skipping along the pilings and skidding to a halt when a wave came far enough up the beach to threaten his laboriously constructed façade of sandcastles.  Laughing and walking closer to the water’s edge, my uncle zoomed in on my Dad leaping spectacularly for the Frisbee and crashing down to the ground while my grandfather chuckled in the foreground.  He panned left and the lifeguard is sunning himself on the roof of his stand.  A splash of water blurs the lens for a moment and then everything is out of focus as my uncle is sprinting across the beach, camera flailing in his hand, in pursuit of the off-screen menace.  Beating footsteps are replaced by Hannah’s squeals; sprayer apprehended.

Dizzy from the onscreen action, I dragged my eyes from the lap top as a particularly loud thud echoed from outside the window.  So caught up in the moment, I had not even realized that the tree had been moved from the patio to the foyer.  My stomach bubbled like seltzer water and I had the distinct feeling that I had broken the rules.  Pining for the summertime during the zenith of the advent calendar countdown?  A scandal, surely.  But I could not help it.  The ocean’s undertow pulled me back onto the beach once again.  I heard voices.

“Oh, hello Caroline,” my uncle said as he and Hannah approached me, Thomas, my mother, and my friend Caroline clustered by the tide pools.  “I see you were extra careful in applying sun block this morning.”

“I don’t burn!” retorted Caroline and as the camera zoomed in it looked like half of her face fell off.  In the background, Thomas’ little blonde head bobbed in and out of the frame as he waded into the spray, trailing his towel behind him.

After successfully righting the Christmas tree in the corner of the living room, my family gathered around the laptop.  Grunting in disapproval, my mother surveys her summertime ambivalence over the wet towel.  Onscreen, I smiled sheepishly at the camera, my skin eerily tainted blue and fresh from my latest frantic reapplication of sun block.

“Well, it could be worse,” my uncle continued, indicating me.  “You could look like Casper over here.”

“Hey!” I cried and suddenly the screen is filled with my eyes as I walk right up to the camera lens before scampering away after the Frisbee that just grazed my knee.

The camera drew back and focused on Alexander, halfway up the beach and walking down towards us.  Finally abandoning his roost on the chaise lounge, he meandered slowly through the sand, darkened by the receding tide and leaving behind footprints filled with tiny pools of water.  Behind him, the white hot sand mixed with the lush greenery of the sea grass and the little wooden bridge through the dunes.  The patchwork of cheerful umbrellas gently flapped in the mellow sea breeze and the great undulating mass of ocean shimmered in the heady air, reflecting brilliance and spraying up pearls of foam.  As Alexander reached the shore, he stopped short and hurled himself into the chaos of the waves.  Hannah, Thomas, Caroline, and I plunged after him while my uncle says something to my mother.  The last sound we all hear is them both laughing, a happy laugh.  A bubbly laugh.  A look-at-them-go laugh.  And then the screen goes blank.

Blinking in the relative darkness after the screen is no longer illuminated; nostalgia seeped into the room, as tangible as the ocean spray had been just seconds ago.  Randomly clicking, I replaced the black screen by the usual desktop, and my family remained huddled around the computer as if it is the only source of warmth in the wintry storm that was bearing down upon us in Massachusetts.

“I don’t even remember him with the camera,” I confessed.

“Yeah, me neither…” Alexander murmured.  “But I do remember Caroline’s burn.”

We all laughed, and then stopped.

A popup emerged on the screen: weather.com blaring news of the incoming Nor’easter.  The sweet, spicy smell of pecan pie wafting from the kitchen reminded my mother that there was still food to be prepared, gifts to be wrapped, calls to be made, and bags to be packed.  Outside, our house was frozen in a cage of white darkness and the flashes from headlights rushing home glared through the window.  But through all of the plans, recipes, and to-do lists, a sunny little bubble of summertime stayed intact in all of our minds.  Beach towels fluttering on the laundry line, kids and seagulls screeching in the streets, watermelon rinds thrown into the brush, and warm, wet rain falling like a lullaby onto the sun baked sand.




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