When I was young, June & July were the months that I lived for. June and July were no school months. I loved my freedom even when I was young. Summer in the south is somewhat magical because the flowers blooming In May and early June you can smell the honeysuckle in the air. The heat is blistering and you really love being indoors even if you’re an outside person. I think the one thing that Louisiana people are good for is knowing all the places and ways to keep cool such as long car rides, long days by the water (lake, pool, river, gulf, pond), bowling alleys, movies, indoor shopping malls, skating rinks, libraries, and homes that you love hanging out at.
Summer is all I think about sometimes. I long for the heat on my body, the stillness of the outside on a Louisiana Summer Day, where it’s so hot even the frogs will cry for rain. I spent 26 years in the hellish heat of Louisiana and not once did I appreciate it as I do now.
Five years ago was the last time I was in Louisiana, and I was there in September and October. It was hotter than hell – 102 in fact- most days I was there. This is not summertime; this is too hot to function time. There is a difference.
Louisiana spring/summer: Easter time was about the same time of year we would start taking ourselves to the closest swimming hole on the lake. From Spring on to the middle of May when school was let out if my friends and I could not be found it only took looking at one of two locations. Miguel (Sammy Gill) Park on Toledo Bend Lake or Red Hill Lake which was across the Texas border also safe from our principal on the occasion he went looking for like half the school.
When I was growing up June was the perfect month. Even though all my cousins and I got out of school at different times by middle June we were all out and they all began trickling into their grandparent’s homes. So, for most of June and July, it would be cousins and fun. These cousins were my 3rd cousins and we ranged in age altogether, I believe the biggest gap was 10yrs. The ones that were around the most – were the boys and my youngest at the time, a cousin who was a girl. Boy did we do a good job to stay in trouble! Only girls in a group of boys… we were determined to be involved in their play. Constantly being told on by the boys. We were vanquished to the inside, at which we only wanted to play in the “den” where all the good furniture was because if you moved a few things just right you could play “the floor is lava” and go around the entire room jumping from furniture piece to furniture piece. We would also like to pretend to be cheerleaders and do all these cool jumps and once my little cousin’s carpet burned her nose so bad, she had a scar the entire summer. Shhh…what we told her grandma was that she was chasing the dog and tripped!
One of the things we did the most was fishing. My great Aunt had one rule, you fish only if you do your own baiting. Somehow, I was always able to convince one of my boy cousins to bait my line. We little kids could only use the worms the bigger kids if they wanted could use lures. I remember standing on the bank with one of the “little’ poles, which my girl cousins and I would always argue over because we all wanted the snoopy pole. The boys wanted to be nowhere around us girls because we did not know how to be quiet. It seemed like each summer I would catch one or two perch and my aunt would send me home with my fish to freeze. Years later when a misfortunate event happened and both our big freezers went out, I had the task of climbing into the freezer to empty it out completely. There I found freezer burnt fish, there were 7 frozen fish never cleaned, just frozen solid little perch. I have often wondered why my aunt would send them home with me, and why did we not throw them back.
Summers were filled with other magic things. Thinking back, I can almost taste snowballs. No, I’m not talking about the one that makes snowmen. I’m talking about shaved Ice saturated with the sweetest sugar mixed with flavoring. The ultimate sugar lovers treat. The fun fact is that more than one summer as a teenager I would help my bestie with her parent’s snowball stand. As a sugar attic, I was in heaven. We made all kinds of weird concoctions and were high on sugar all day. Then later a friend’s family would open a snowball stand and we would all congregate there after school. You have never had true sweet tea till you are given a big ole glass to take outside and “cool off with”.
The religious part of my summers always meant summer camp, family camp, and fort Jessup camp. These were all religious-based and two of them were sleep-away camps. This was the time I’d see some of my best friends and make new friends. I loved sleep away camp especially when I got to go without family. The family camp was when my grandparents got to see old friends and people from churches that they pastored. I got “shown off” as the prize pig at the fair. I got introduced to more people than my mind could hold space for. Of course, old southern gossipy people liked to talk and liked to tell you exactly how they knew your family. To wrap the religious part up you can’t forget about bible school. Bible school at least 3 different churches of your own religion and then your aunts and Uncles scoop you up for their church’s bible school. Honestly, I got so much Jesus during the summer I should not have turned out as bad as I did.
The biggest love of the summer was water. This love affair began only via bathtubs and water hoses. Any chance I could while being outside I would figure out a way to get soaking wet via the water hose. Then one summer I had to be 9 or 10, My great Aunt and Uncle would take five of my cousins and me fishing at the Toledo Bend Dam. We all rode in the back of their truck we were packed in but omg I was so excited. I loved riding in the back of trucks, I loved my cousins and I really liked fishing. So we go to the dam, and we are there for like 2 hours, and my aunt, not being used to such a pale child- looks at me and notices the sunblock was not helping and I was burnt only 2 hours in. So, she looked over and saw a little beach so we drove over to it, down a road that you had no way of knowing was there, with a locked gate we had to walk from. The water had a small beach, my aunt walked out to her waist and said we were allowed in the water but not past her. After a great debate about why the two girls could not take off their shirts as the boys did, we finally resolved that we would be soaking wet. They’re begun my love for being in the water. Which would turn into many trips with my friends to various lake beaches.
There is so much more I could write about Louisiana summers, but honestly it would just be an ongoing love letter to Louisiana. I was lucky to grow up in a place where kids could be kids, where you could go swimming with your friends and feel safe. Where summer was truly summer. Ponytails and flip-flops were staple looks. June is the gateway to remembering all the positive moments of summer from my youth. Today I wanted to remember all those feelings. So, I thought I’d share it with you.
Of course, there were some downfalls about Louisiana summers. I mean for one it was HOT. Louisiana summers also meant a lot of hard work if you lived on a farm. It meant lots of canning, picking peas, corn, and every other thing you can imagine. Shucking corn in 100-degree temps WAS NOT fun, but oh how I would go back, and enjoy each moment just a bit more than before, with a bit fewer complaints. Once it’s gone you never get it back. So, my advice is to savor every moment as best as you can because good memories of things are much better than the bad ones. Happy summer everyone. Tell me where you are from in the comments and special summer memory. XOXO, Evie
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