Summer on Anchor Road: Sights, Smells & Sounds

Your life is a poem,” says Naomi Shihab Nye.

And as the world tilts toward the dog days of summer, that’s how I see it too: tiny images of poetry seen through the prism of my childhood, remembering summers in the Longenecker back yard and inside Grandma’s house. Louis Macneice expresses these sentiments vividly in his poem, “Soap Suds”

Soap Suds

Soap Suds 1a

Vintage Lawn Croquet with wooden mallets and balls - Google Advanced Image
Vintage Lawn Croquet with wooden mallets and balls – Google Advanced Image  (The Longeneckers had one almost identical.)

 Soap Supds 2a

GlobeNorwood1966TerrariumVictorian

Soap Suds 3a

Soap Suds 4a

Though Macneice reminds us there’s no going back to childhood after experiencing the realities of an adult, our younger selves can still exist in memory – as photographs preserved in sepia tone. And like the bubbles in soap suds, I recall a childhood that is ephemeral, fleeting:

I can see the nicked edge of the croquet mallet, as it strikes the striped ball with a “thwack” sending it on a scrolling roll . . .

. . . taste the root-beer float Mom made from Hires concentrate, laying the 2-quart Ball jars side by side on the cellar floor to “cure.” . . . hear the straw suck of the cool drink like the sound of sudsy sink water draining.

Marian in tub_13 months_4x3_300

. . . feel the cool water as I splashed in the tub on a hot summer day in August.

* * *

Only one piece of playground equipment was a fixture in our back yard, an iron swing painted glossy silver. Here Daddy, probably at Mother’s prompting, posed with me in his plain coat and black bow tie before or after church at Bossler Mennonite. He has a tentative hold on his firstborn daughter, perhaps still feeling awkward as a parent. The calendar must have shown April because I was 9 months old. No roses or peonies bloom yet in the garden behind us.

SwingDaddyBabyMe


Credit: Globe and still life. The antique globe above comes from Norwood Elementary School where Cliff first taught school. He composed the still life painting next to it during his Master’s degree studies at Florida State University.

Did your family have a croquet set? Do you still use it?

What other pictures or stories of childhood summers did this post spark in your memory?

How as an adult, have you tried to retrieve child-like wonder and playfulness?

Coming next: School Daze – They Ain’t What They Used to Be

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63 thoughts on “Summer on Anchor Road: Sights, Smells & Sounds

  1. Good morning, Marian! Beautiful post.
    I particularly liked this: “And like the bubbles in soap suds, I recall a childhood that is ephemeral, fleeting” I love the photo of you in the tub, and the one of your father holding you, too. I think his plain, “Sunday” clothing makes that one look like a photo from an earlier time.

    I remember my little sister and I hitting croquet balls around our yard–but with no idea really how to play the game.

    Well, you know I dance around my kitchen (and to TV theme music), so I guess I still have some childhood playfulness. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, your family is always on the edge of mirth, if not fully steeped in its joy, usually with three generations. Your own playfulness is reflected in the dance of new poetic forms on your own blog. Readers, here is a great example: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/under-three-moons-a-trilune/

      And you’re right about the “earlier time.” In mid-twentieth century most Mennonite men would plain frock coats as prescribed by the ordinances of the Lancaster Conference Mennonite Church. I’m not sure I see the spirituality in it, but it loudly proclaimed tradition.

      I noticed your tweet before I read this comment, both a sweet way to begin this week’s conversation. Thank you, Merril!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We even had a croquet set on the farm and it often came out at family picnics and gatherings. Have no idea where it went after we left home. Yes, I often try to achieve the childhood wonders and emotions through my writing. Love the picture of you in the tub. I am sure there is a similar one of me somewhere. A most enjoyable post, thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Writing for the younger set in your series books does the same thing for you as teaching two-year-olds does for me. I sense that you will always be young at heart.

      Yes, I have no idea what happened to our family croquet set. I imagine Mother gave it to a young family who admired it. It would be just like her to do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I remember the root beer floats with homemade ice cream.The yard swing and Grandma Longenecker down the road and aunt Ruthie’s garden with the big sunflowers. And Bossler Church. Such great memories. Yes that is something greater than gold and no one can take from you. I also remember my biological grand mothers house. Every weekend everyone would congregate at her house. It was like a party all the food laughter and at times dancing, such great times. Love the picture of you in the tub and picture with you and Dad. He was such a tall handsome man. Great blessings.
    Gloria

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate how our parallel memories are alike – and different! You caught Mother and Daddy in late mid-life, in a different stage from my growing up years. I’m happy your grandmother has supplied you with memorable times too, including dancing, which would never have happened at the Longenecker homestead – ha!

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  4. Marian — I thoroughly enjoyed reading SOAP SUDS, the new-to-me poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. The photograph of you at 13 months old in the big tub is adorable!

    The strongest childhood memories this post brought to the forefront of my mind were:
    1). The taste of mom-made root-beer floats. Oh how I loved that rare treat!
    2). It also brought to mind the two-pairs-for-$5 tennis shoes from Sears. One pair had to make it through the rough-and-tumble summer; the other pair stayed in a box in the closet for the new school year.

    As adults, Len and I play all the time: we ride our bicycles, take long walks every day (rain or shine), play with Willa in the river, enjoy the open-air market on Saturdays, play bocci ball, have fierce backgammon matches (I’m ruthless), and visit “Goody’s” — a real, honest to goodness, old fashioned soda fountain — at least once a month. As a matter of fact, we’re meeting friends there tomorrow evening to enjoy something delicious in honor of Len’s 61st birthday. Here’s a link: http://www.goodyssodafountain.com/icecream

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried the link to Goody’s Soda Fountain and then marched back to the kitchen freezer to see if we had ice cream.

      We had none.

      Our new home is close to Cold Stone Creamery, and now I/we have a good excuse to pay a visit.

      You and Len have obviously held on to child-like playfulness and wonder. Please notice I said “child-like,” not “childish” – big difference. You always make me smile, Laurie. 🙂 Happy Burfday to the young Len. At 61, he’s just hitting his stride.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh yes, we had a set just like that one. I think it might have been a slightly newer model with caps on the ends of the mallets?? Out of nostalgia, I bought a new set several years ago. Quite disappointing and expensively so. For fun I went online to see what’s available. Even the L. L. Bean one looks spindly. But guess what? The Amish make a real set: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/252386134155?lpid=82&chn=ps&ul_noapp=true

    I was drawn back to poetry also today as I finally wrote about my Celtic Pilgrimage. Once an English major/teacher/professor always one. I used to tell my students that getting to know poems would give them better lives. Now I am living that idea. And so are you!

    We are about to leave home for a week at the beach. I’ll go with your lovely words and images in mind, fully aware that these beach adventures are opportunities to plant memories deeply in places of playful love. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your mention of the Amish croquet set reminds me that our daughter Crista has a wonderfully wrought piece of Amish-made furniture supporting their giant TV screen, sort of anachronistic when you think about it.

      I want to re-read and then comment on your insightful post today but I have to gather my thoughts. After the enormous energy drain our move has required, I am today in a daze, trying to form new patterns and rhythms in our new space. I’m so glad we can both savor Pope’s advice having drunk deeply from “these Pierian springs” before our golden years.

      Kick up your heels with family at the beach. Soon you’ll lead a life of quiet contemplation. I wonder if any of the spaces will remind you of worship in the Mennonite Church of your youth.

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  6. Oh how I loved croquet. Badminton was a close second, along with climbing trees and building tree houses. We don’t have a flat lawn for croquet now. The same for badminton. Climbing trees and building tree houses is no longer recommended for someone my age, so I try to keep myself from doing those things. It’s not hard. The mind is willing but the body says, “NO.”

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    1. I know what you mean, Joan. After the move, I ache all over. As we emptied boxes, I found a “donut” that I used after a surgery shortly after I retired. It feels good now as I sit suspended in its cushiony space atop my chair.

      Yes, for us croquet at home and badminton at Uncle Leroy’s house – with cousins. Precious memories . . . !

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved the poem, Marian, so much that I want to check out this poet for myself. I was reminded of a post I wrote about childhood memories last year around this time and the two magic words “let’s pretend!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m looking for this appealing post, Elfrieda, and have come up empty-handed. Will you supply a link please? I’d love to read it and comment. I’m guessing other readers would as well.Thanks!

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  8. I had to double check the picture of the globe and Cliff’s painting – I thought they were real … lovely painting, lovely pictures! Too dear of you in the tub!

    Childhood memories? Only one comes to mind right now – on a tricycle going down the sloping driveway of our home and crashing. Yes I do still attempt bike riding (when on holiday down at the sea) and after long spells of not bike riding, I manage an obligatory fall or three …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The globe is real, but the pottery works are painted.

      I like the wry humor in “obligatory fall” and the story that went with it. When visiting cousins during the summer I fell off their bicycle onto the gravel and demolished my knee. The subsequent pain intensified my homesickness and the next day my parents came to pick me up. I guess the pains of childhood prepare us for the bumps and lumps as we get older. Thank you, Susan!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, a star globe, we never had one. But the croquet set certainly looks very familiar; I enjoyed playing–up to a point. Did not enjoy waiting on my turn or getting knocked out of bounds. With both of my sisters visiting this week (and brother to arrive from Fla. this afternoon :-)) we were enjoying watching the Olympics last night, and then laughing at my sisters’ memory of an ill-advised platform dive they both took in Bakersfield Calif. on our family western trip where they jumped in feet first. My sister plugged her nose at the top and ran out of breath on the way down. (I was too young and chicken to attempt the scary dive.) Anyway, thanks for these wonderful summer memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad this post evoked such warm-fuzzy memories in hot weather – right? Your word pictures are so vivid. I admire your holding family close and also taking time during reunions happening at your house right now to read and reply to this post. Thank you, Melodie!

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    1. If you find some bubbles, soapy or not, and describe them on your blog, you know I’ll be sure to read them. Thank you for the kind words – and happy you are inspired to wax poetic.

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    1. Your kind words are overwhelming. Thank you, Marylin.

      You and I both enjoy leaving a legacy of words and pictures. After all, we want to make the most of The One Life We’re Given, a book I’m reading now by Mark Nepo. I’d recommend it. (Got it from the library, so I’m not adding very many books to my pared-down bookshelves anymore – ha!)

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  10. Your dad didn’t look too comfortable holding you up Marian, lol. And your post reminded me of the little croquet set my siblings and I played with when we were kids. I loved it. 🙂
    Hoping you’re getting settled in your new home. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right: my dad was much more comfortable with tools or a tractor wheel in his hand. Yes, and you and a few other readers can identify with croquet sets as kids growing up.

      Thanks for asking about the “settling in.” We have been here about a week and a half. Still, many wall pictures and two mirrors to put up. Cliff still hasn’t gotten the business side of the move figured out, so there are a lot of his boxes yet to be unpacked but mostly confined to one room. It’ll all come together . . . eventually. The lake is so peaceful behind the lanai. That’s the one thing that takes my mind off the “to-do” list. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw that lake view, how gorgeous! And if you guys are already at mirrors and wall hangings, I’d say you’re nearing the finishing line. Enjoy your beautiful home. 🙂

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        1. It’s lovely to have a friend holding my hand during this unfamiliar process. In a way we are nearing the finish line. However, we moved in over a period of 6 weeks, one car-load at a time until the moving van a week and half ago for the big stuff. I’ve been tempted to count the number of boxes yet un-emptied from Cliff’s business. So far I’ve resisted. Ha!

          If you ever make it to Florida, there is a guest room waiting for you, Debby.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. You are too kind Marian. I shall keep your invitation on the back burner!!!
            And you moved the smart way. That’s what we did for all of our moves, we carted car loads over to the new homes while we left a 2 week window of carrying two properties, giving us a chance to get some immediate work in place in the new homes, and one less truck load for the movers lol. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Fiona. Your photography keeps getting better and better – if that’s possible. And reading/seeing your posts is not an energy drain. I always know I’ll be rewarded clicking on your blog!

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  11. Such an evocative post . How wonderful childhood is if only we knew it . My parents didn’t have a lot of money , in some ways I’m thankful because we all learned to use our imagination . As an adult I can truly say I am never bored . I always used to say to my son ‘only boring people are bored’ .
    As a child I would collect garden tools or bean sticks and tie them together with string , find old blankets and drap them over like a wig wam … I would spend hours playing in that , mum had to drag me out for bed because all meal would be eaten in it .
    Later my dad made me a tree house …just out of a few pieces of wood left around . It was amazing all my friends used to come . Such fun . Thanks for reminding me Marian .
    Cherryx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. And thanks for sharing moments from your fanciful childhood, Cherry. Imagination is the ticket to having fun – garden tools and bean sticks beat plastic store-bought toys any day. Obviously your dad stretched his imagination too, making a tree-house from wood scraps. ((( )))

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  13. Croquet is part of my childhood, too–in Mexico, Missouri when neighborhood kids played outside until after dark. Croquet in the evening and then a hiding game with white chalk hints that lasted until it was so dark we turned to catching fireflies. I feel the whack of the mallet. But in the country where the images are strongest, I taste Grandma’s homemade peach ice cream with ice from the icehouse (no freezers or air conditioning), smell her baking bread, and feel the warmth of the nest when I wiggled my little hand under a sitting hen to steal her egg.

    I’m challenged when it comes to play, but maybe I’m just a farm woman at heart so love to work in the garden more than go swimming at the lake. I play with flowers and sometimes with paints. Thank you so much for the touching memories and beautiful images, Marian. At Grandma’s house, we bathed in a big tub like that or inside in a porcelain wash bowl filled from a pitcher. No indoor plumbing, so there was a covered commode, too, kept in a closed cabinet next to the bed and well cleaned every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Croquet, homemade ice cream (peach, the best!), and catching fireflies are all experiences I can relate to but “the hiding game with white chalk hints” has me stumped. I wonder whether we did something like this but with a different name – it doesn’t ring a bell. Hmmmm . . .

      Another wondering . . . did the hen try to peck your skin when you snuck the her egg? Maybe you were quicker than I was – ha!

      Grandma had indoor plumbing but also an outhouse we used in the summertime. She also had a covered commode in the attic which we brought down in recent years when Aunt Ruthie lived at home but had a hard time getting to the bathroom some distance away. Her caretaker for brief stints, I know exactly what you mean by “well cleaned every day.”

      Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful comments. I guess you’re taking a break from the tomatoes, zucchini, and beans right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I just came across her poem recently. See what I’ve been missing!

      My favorite so far is “Kindness” and then a close second “If you write three lines down.” which is about all I can manage until we close the chapter on “Moving.” You are so smart to methodically go through your stuff now, Elaine!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t remember the name of the hiding game, but it was hide and go seek with hints. The one who hid left arrows and I don’t remember what else on sidewalks or side streets with white chalk. That was in town (Mexico, MO, 12,000 inhabitants and proudly the county seat.) I don’t remember being pecked by the hens. Grandma likely pointed me to the more gentle ones.

        You probably noticed that Naomi sent a short poem for the Preface of my book and also gave me permission to use “Kindness,” so my book has two of her poems. She’s a generous and deep-hearted woman. “Gate A-4” is another favorite: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/gate-4 I won’t spoil it by talking about it before you’re read it.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Yes we have croquet and volleyball and badminton. It’s always good to have those kind of outdoor entertainment activities when you have lots of people around. Other family members have some of the same but some different also. Like bocce ball, ladderball, and tetherball.

    We liked making tents out of an old sheet we’d get from Grandma or Mother and pin the sides down with wooden peg clothespins. We’d read a lot and we always participated in the library summer reading programs. We liked playing games like Red Rover, Simon Says and Red Light Green Light, hopscotch and hula hoops, jacks and mancala. We loved clapping games , jumproping and I especially like Chinese jump rope. I always carried a homemade one of linked rubber bands with me.

    I don’t feel like I have lost “childlike wonder” and “playfulness”. The last week we sat outside for hours each night watching the meteor shower. I am just as happy seeing the 10th as the 1st. I’m not going to climb a tree any more but that’s not going to stop me from encouraging the grandchildren and others to try it. I even keep a newly made Chinese jump rope handy and yarn for cat’s cradle.

    My mother has a little framed photo of herself in a washtub. The picture sits in her living room. The picture of you and your father is so dear. I wonder if he swung a bit with you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And why did icon change ? I had a pretty lavender one before. I don’t like olive green. On every word press blog it was always lavender. What happened?

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Do you have a photo (headshot) of yourself? If so, place it on your desktop. This photo can become your “gravatar” that represents you digitally on the web. Then you can follow the instructions on this website: http://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/what-is-gravatar-and-why-you-should-start-using-it-right-away/

            I hope that helps. If not, find a young person to guide you through this. My grandsons all know heaps more than I do about computers, etc. 🙂

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  15. Soap bubbles floating across the garden. Pappy made me a bubble wand with wood and twisted wire and I would stand on the back step and blow bubbles. I loved to watch their rainbow colours slowly fade, the bubble skin thin and finally disappear. From time to time I make bubble mixture and relive those moments. None of the joy is lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your memory sounds like poetry as I read this Monday morning. I like that your bubble wand was homemade.

      On Sundays I have a class of two-year-olds and when they come in to the play area crying, bubbles are the cure. They immediately forget missing Mama. Thanks, Marie. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Beautiful poem. And yes, even though I am quite a bit younger than you, I remember a very similar croquet set from my childhood. Maybe it was passed on to my parents–but the balls were lost and the croquet mallets broken somewhere along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

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