(I’m not asking for you to list your ideal “beach reading,” you understand, but the book that you can read at any time of year but that evokes “summer.”)
Growing up, I associated summer with cousins. I had cousins next door, living with their parents and my grandfather, and ten million cousins throughout the county, but the summer before fourth grade my cousin from Ireland came over to stay with us (and would live with us year-round once we got to high school) and my cousin from Alexandria came down to stay next door, and thereafter summer meant cousins (and horses and bikes and checkers and rummy and everyone. whatever their age, sitting outside in my grandfather's yard in the evenings trying to stay cool).
So when I had to read Anne Tyler's Searching for Caleb in a contemporary fiction class my freshman year at college, I felt a strong sense of kinship with Justine who loved her summers with her cousins:
In the evening they all went home. The four houses gave to illusion of belonging
to four separate families. But after supper they came out again and sat on
Great-Grandma's lawn, the men in their shirtsleeves and the women in fresh print
dresses. The children grew overexcited rolling down the slope together. They
quarreled and were threatened with an early bedtime, and finally they had to
come sit with the grownups until they had calmed down. Sweaty and panting,
choking back giggles, itchy from the grass blades that stuck to their skin, they
dropped to the ground beside their parents and looked up at the stars while low
measured voices murmered all around them. The oldest cousin, Uncle Mark's
daughter Esther, held her little brother Richard on her lap and tickled him
secretly with a dandelion clock. Nearby, Esther's twin sisters, Alice and Sally,
were curled together like puppies with Justine in the middle because she was new
and special. And Uncle Two's boys, Claude and Duncan, wrestled without a sound
and without a perceptible movement so they wouldn't be caught and sent to bed.
Not that the grownups really cared. They were piecing together some memory now,
each contributing his own little patch and then sitting back to see how it would
turn out. Long after the children had grown calm and loose and dropped off to
sleep, one by one, the grownups were still weaving family history in the
and despite the fact that I was raised Southern Baptist and was supposed to keep my distance from fortune-tellers (Justine's chosen career) and the like (e.g., my aunt had me trained to freak out at the mere sight of a Ouija board box there for awhile), I threw in with Justine and have lived happily on the dark side ever after. And that is what summer means to me, the end.
Booking Through Thursday