In the bright blue morning, Joan hung sheets on the clothesline. The sweetness of honeysuckle mingled with the general smell of warmth. And something else. Privet. A few years ago, walking in a park, she realized it was the scent of privet in bloom that encompassed “summer” for her, taking her all the way back to her grandma’s. So Joan planted privets along one side of her yard, mimicking her grandma’s hedge. Everyone wondered why. “They take over,” her friends said. She hoped so.
Dreamily, Joan recalled helping her grandma hang sheets. Afterward, she ran through them, up and down the pristine rows, a fortress. When they gathered them in the afternoon, she loved their sunny, billowing whiteness, and wished she could wrap herself in them, “queen of the castle.” Hanging her own sheets reminded her of those summers, which had seemed endless at first, but always did end — with the starting of school.
The children playing next door brought her own childhood back as well. The Franklin’s house had originally belonged to an older couple, whose ample backyard had become overgrown, unkempt. This new young family hadn’t greatly altered it. Joan saw the wisdom in this, whether or not it was intentional. The four children had a bit of wildness — for exploring, for improvising around. The overgrown camellias created an enclosure for a hideout. The area of patchy grass under the large oak gave Hannah, who usually played alone, a site for her playhouse. She carefully swept the earth, laying out her rooms with rocks and sticks.
Like Joan, they were Summer Children. Summer Children hang by their legs from swing sets and jungle gyms. They instinctively bite off the ends of honeysuckles, casually spit them out, and suck them dry. They fall down, brush the grit off their knees, blow on their battered hands, and carry on. They are builders, detectives, kings and queens, and outlaws. They rise early filled with plans. And they “kick-the-can” into the growing darkness night after night, tired and mostly satisfied.