It is these early days in August when I can’t help but look backward down that old dusty road from yesteryear. When I think back, those first few days of August where mixed with excitement — the Bureau County Fair was just a few weeks away — and also some melancholy moments — after all, that first school bell would be ringing soon.
The days were terribly hot, though there was usually a slight breeze on the farm. We played hard, and back then, we didn’t mind the sweat. Our days were jam-packed with activities we created ourselves with little to no adult interference. We loved life, our farm, each other. It was as simple as that.
Oh sure, there was an occasional squabble, and every once in a while, somebody would end up crying (usually me), but by and large, we just got along with each other. Being farm kids meant our playmates were primarily our family members. It was impossible to stay angry at each other for very long — maybe five minutes was tops.
With money saved being counted daily for the upcoming fair and the inevitable bag of school supplies waiting obnoxiously in the corner of our bedrooms, we attempted to make our final days of summer vacation the best ever. And they were. Without spending a penny, we made memories, and we had the time of our young lives.
While the days were fast and furious, perhaps what I remember most, though, are the nights — those hot, humid and stuffy nights when the breeze had died, and the only thing stirring was the sound of crickets serenading the night. We’d gather on the front porch like ants at a picnic — kids sprawled on the steps, adults in the lawn chairs.
The sweat had been washed away with a before-bed bath, and we wore our cool, cotton pajamas. My grandmother donned a fresh, cotton housecoat, and Grandpa — he still wore his overalls just in case someone would stop by (they never did). Dinner dishes were washed and put away, and the hot, steamy kitchen was trying to cool down. TV? It wasn’t on. A box fan usually whirled in the window, attempting to evacuate the hot air from the house.
As the sun slipped over the horizon, our voices turned quiet — almost as if we didn’t want to disturb the night. Mostly the adults talked softly, and as children, we listened without comment and ultimately learned a lot. The crops, the neighbors, distant family members, our animals ... there was no malice in those conversations, rather light-hearted chatting about this and that. Gossip didn’t disturb the night either — that’s not who we were.
As children, we were tired, and consequently, we weren’t very talkative. However, if we had something to say, our adults listened to us as if our comments were valid and important — whether they really were or not. We mattered, and we knew we did.
Eventually, the yawns and sleepy eyes would overtake us, and we’d climb up into an adult’s lap — our clean and clammy skin sticking to their skin. We lay our heads on their chests and continue to listen to their words — now less frequent as the night progressed, soothing their souls and quieting their thoughts. With heavy eyes, we’d struggle to stay awake, but eventually we were led inside, where cool, white sheets had been spread on the living room floor, since the upstairs was much too hot. We’d drift off to sleep with the sound of the box fan whirling, hushed voices coming through the screen door and the crickets still delivering their hidden messages.
It won’t be long before summer will turn into fall. Enjoy these August days, and if you can, try to find some peace among the chaos. Sit a spell on the porch, speak softly and let nature overcome you. I need to do the same. I think we’d be surprised to learn how much we need to chat, kick back and relax. It’s long overdue.