Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Open windows and gardenia bushes...

     In conversation the other day, someone brought up my mother's gardenia bushes that grew by the side of my childhood home.  Even though this person didn't live in that house, she said that anytime she smells a gardenia bush in full bloom she thinks about those bushes growing on Pine Shadows Lane back many years ago.  Funny she should mention them because every year when the weather turns warm I think about those gardenia bushes and their heavenly fragrance filling my bedroom every night.  It did that, you see, because my bedroom window was open and an attic fan was drawing in the night air.   Summertime sure did smell good.  Whether it was the gardenia bushes, the neighbor's freshly cut grass, honeysuckle on the fence or a still-smoldering grill where someone had cooked that night's supper it was hard for a child to dread whatever our imagination convinced us lived out there in the dark night.  You know you're not alone in the world if you can hear the neighbors chatting on their porch swing or smell the cigar you're father's smoking  in the driveway (because Mama won't let him smoke it in the house.)   If one of those summer thunderstorms blew in, the rolling thunder and the fresh wet smell of rain would rock you on to sleep where you'd dream of yet another of those endless summer days waiting on you in the morning, with its creeks to navigate and salamanders to catch and bikes to ride.

     During the summer, if I wasn't sleeping in my own bed I was more than likely sleeping in one of the two beds in my cousin Alan's bedroom.  I spent many weeks at Uncle Ralph and Aunt Nell's house during the summer you see.  They lived "wayyyyyyyyyyy off" in the country in Dawson County (Dawson County has now become another suburb having been swallowed by Atlanta's growth.)   In those dark, country nights, there was a whole 'nother world of sounds and smells wafting in those open windows.  Critters and crickets we didn't have at home had their own concert and I was mesmerized by life in what I thought then was the middle of nowhere.  Even the stink of a cat dining on a fish head  (from the catch we'd just cleaned) up on the porch wasn't a bad thing because well, it just smelled like summer.  Alan and I would lie there on those nights and listen to the radio station out of Gainesville  and argue about which song was the best.  If the Braves were playing on the west coast, we'd sit and listen to a baseball game 'til the wee hours and it would inspire us to dig out his old baseball gloves when we got up in the morning and play some catch.  Even some mysterious growling and wailing and gnashing of teeth out in those dark nights would be explained away at breakfast the next morning when Uncle Ralph bellowed - "Did y'all hear that damn dog get mixed up with another beaver down the hill?  I'm gonna have to take him to get MORE stitches in his face!"

     I fear we live in a really stuffy world these days.  Every place we go is sealed up tight as a drum lest we get the least bit uncomfortable.  I often find myself in a climate-controlled room still feeling like I need to go outside (even in the heat) just so I can feel air moving around.  I really do miss open windows, especially on summer evenings.  I reckon that's why my bride and I spend so much time on the patio at night, trying to literally and figuratively breathe.  The sounds and smells of summer are now cleansing us of the adult crap endured during the day and giving us something to put our minds on rather than the next day's ration of the same. Just for kicks I Googled "open windows" and the very first and most popular link tells me that "open windows is a desktop environment for Sun Microsystems workstations."   Well dang.


1 comment:

Scott W said...

I remember those years in our first house, a small 2 bedroom brick ranch in Decatur. My parents turned the den into a third bedroom to make space for us 3 kids though my brother and I still had to share one of the rooms. We didn’t have air in those days and your words call to mind those summer nights when I’d wake up, my pjs drenched in sweat, feeling so slighted in life by having to open the windows just to keep the room in the low 80s during the night.

I haven’t slept with open windows in probably 40 years and I must say that I actually miss something about those summer nights. We didn’t have gardenias, but we did have honeysuckle and crickets… thanks for the mental souvenir Tim!