A great summer memory: The definition of heat

A great summer memory: The definition of heat

The challenge came in at 8 p.m.: Blogapalooz-Hour, the monthly Chicago Now effort to write and post something in one hour on a set subject. Tonight’s topic: What is your favorite summer memory from your school years?

Many of my favorite memories would involve more than an hour of combing thorough diaries (back to sixth grade) and old letters. So even the “media library,” the clip art I attach to these posts, has taken some scrutiny in the past few minutes. Time’s precious, so I picked the pineapple to recall our family’s trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, in the summer I was 10 (in 19-forget-it).

We went in August. It turned out to be the very definition of hot weather.

I will never forget going to Pearl Harbor, looking around the Arizona Memorial — and out its windows, into the oily water. I will never forget it, and I should not. The wall of names wasn’t so tall merely because I was so short.

(OK, that may not be your definition of a favorite memory — but it’s staying where it is because it’s among the more important places I’ve ever seen. Favorite doesn’t necessarily mean fun.)

I enjoyed seeing the Royal Hawaiian hotel — the first pink building I’d ever seen in those days before the Thompson Center and other “Post-Modern” buildings. On the other hand, I see the former Edgewater Beach hotel often now in Chicago — another pink hotel. Maybe that’s part of what keeps the Royal Hawaiian vivid.

I remember going to the Polynesian Cultural Center on a particularly hot day. I think that was where we saw some information on Samoa, the final home of Robert Louis Stevenson, who already led my list of beloved writers. (This was so long ago that I hadn’t tried any Conan Doyle.)

I remember reading a model of his tombstone, with the poem that says “Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.” That has a different resonance when you’re on an island in the sea yourself. But it took a different trip to find out that Louis had lived in Honolulu, too! Maybe I just wasn’t so good at “field trips” at that age. (And really, I was just getting to know Louis — I’d read only “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by then.)

The day at the Polynesian Cultural Center was painfully hot, but I still use it to get me through hot days — not just thinking of Louis, but thinking of how I managed to get through it. Fruit punch, a favorite at that age, turned out to be a life-saver.

No wonder that when I face heat waves now, I like blends of juices and different things to drink more than I like solid food.

That’s what makes this the winner as I try to pick a favorite memory — it’s not just back in 19-f0rget-it, it’s useful in 2018.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook. 

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Filed under: Writing

Tags: Robert Louis Stevenson


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  • Great post!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Aw shucks, thanks!

  • About the only thing I remember is packing an insulated picnic basket with a can of the equivalent of blue ice for a break in the middle of a trip of about 118 miles, which I could now drive in about 97 minutes.

  • In reply to jack:

    I remember a lot of picnic-packing, but I didn't find good picnic art to add to a story like that.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Roadside tables were big in the day,. There was also a Greyhound stop south of Kentland, Ind. Nothing particularly memorable about either.

    Now the closest equivalent is the Rest Area on I-65 near Roseland, Ind. That's near Naked City (now named something else), but I'm sure you're not allowed to post any pictures of that.

  • In reply to jack:

    I do remember a lot of hot days at rest areas on highways. As for the picture standards, I'm not even going to check whether your subject is allowed. I don't want it here.

  • When I was ten I spent most of my time playing softball on anything that resembled a playing field. Hawaii would come many years later.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Well, I'm glad you made it to Hawaii, too. I got an early start because our parents took my sister and me along on an anniversary trip. As for playing fields, this may shock you, but I was more concerned with libraries than fields, even as a little kid in summer.

  • Your observation that "favorite" does not necessarily mean "fun" is a good one. I'm not sure that I was very good at "field trips" when I was 10 years old, either. I remember groaning, sometimes, and dragging my feet, and when an adult got excited about something, I couldn't understand what the fuss was all about. Decades later I often find myself getting all "geeky" when visiting museums and destinations of historical significance - who knew?

  • Thanks, folkloric. I was far from dragging my feet at Pearl Harbor, actually; I remember the feeling as closer to shock -- partly for myself, but partly seeing my parents' reactions. As for getting geeky, well, of course -- but one needs to have the right context to hold onto the meaning before it sticks. Another great memory my parents wanted me to value was getting to see the Magna Carta in the British Library in London (on a visit to Dad's cousins). I liked it, filed it away and didn't think much about it until I got the historical context of it years later. What I remember on the day itself was getting to see the manuscript of "Peter Rabbit." That had immediate meaning, and it's only gotten deeper. (Hmm, Beatrix Potter, wanna join a committee?)

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