Summer Evenings Before Television

Growing up, we spent many summer days visiting my grandparents house in Orchard, Texas. Every evening, after supper was over and cleaned up, we would all grab a folding lawn chair off the back porch and set them up in a rough circle on the east side of the house. We always picked an area of lawn where we had an unobstructed view of as much of the evening sky as was possible.

This memory was brought to the fore today by the poem Reverence in Garrison Keillor‘s The Writer’s Almanac


by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

The air vibrated
with the sound of cicadas
on those hot Missouri nights after sundown
when the grown-ups gathered on the wide back lawn,
sank into their slung-back canvas chairs
tall glasses of iced tea beading in the heat

All week I have been reliving those childhood memories as I sit out in the back yard between walking laps. The heat reminds me of late summer and the cicadas are vibrating  the air even in mid morning. The mockingbird’s song seems to come from every tree in sight…Trills overlapping each other as they announce their presence to one and all.

and we sisters chased fireflies
reaching for them in the dark
admiring their compact black bodies
their orange stripes and seeking antennas
as they crawled to our fingertips
and clicked open into the night air.

In our family, the custom was to take a mayo jar…poke a few holes in the lid with an ice pick…drop in a few handfuls of grass…then run about trying to catch a few “lightning bugs” to make a bedside lamp for the evening.

Once all of us kids had filled our jars, we would all gather round, each in our own comfortable canvas cocoon, to watch the stars begin to come out. There would usually be a fight to see who got possession of the butterfly chair. Counting falling stars, trying to catch sight of one of those newfangled satellites glowing by…Listening to Grandpa Sewell, one of the first storytellers I ever knew, spin his yarns from a south Texas childhood we would never know otherwise…Listening to Grandma telling him to quit pulling our legs. Much as Julia Cadwaller-Staub wrote…

In all the days and years that have followed,
I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced
that same utter certainty of the goodness of life
that was as palpable
as the sound of the cicadas on those nights:

my sisters running around with me in the dark,
the murmur of the grown-ups’ voices,
the way reverence mixes with amazement
to see such a small body
emit so much light.

After the days heat would leave the world…we would gather up all of the chairs and return them to their places on the porch before wandering in and taking a washcloth bath before crawling into bed. The windows open the night time breezes bringing the cicada song into your dreams all night long.

Waking the next morning just before sunup and looking out the window, you would see the lawn from the evening before covered with bunnies. Cottontails by the dozen, eating their last meal before vanishing for the day into burrows we never found…In all of our years of exploring the grounds we never stumbled upon more than a couple of rabbits…Yet every morning there they were.

And the day would begin again…Another circle to complete in reverence.

via The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor | Reverence by Julie Cadwallader-Staub.

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