I stumbled over the words slowly and tumbled into the days of summers long gone by. The poem is about summertime and watermelons by John Tobias that my friend Lynn sent me, knowing it would speak to my heart. It did and then some, it would hurl me back in time to the magical days of summer that live forever in our minds.
There are many different callings and missions in life, but we had only one mission in those less complicated days; to have fun. One way to ensure good times for all was to serve up the red, velvety, nectar from God; ice cold watermelon… What kid didn’t enjoy watermelon like it was manna with honey from heaven?
Funny how heat didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the folks that couldn’t hide from it like we can now. Summers in Arizona without air conditioning, at least part of our childhood, didn’t seem to mean much of anything when we had our faces buried in watermelon like a hungry dog does a freshly filled dog bowl.
After the bellies began to fill up with our heavenly delight the melon eating slowed and the contests would begin. Who could spit their seed the farthest? Bobby, the second to oldest, always came out on top in that department. Then it was for accuracy, none of us could agree on a winner or wouldn’t admit to it. Of course, the contests always turned into a watermelon spittin’ shoot out, no sides, every man and one sister for themselves.
As kids, the magical days that stayed light well past eight seemed to last forever and like every other red-blooded kid, we grew to believe they would. Saying goodbye to summer was like saying goodbye to your best friend ever… and indeed we were saying goodbye to someone even closer than that…
We said farewell to the kid that would begrudgingly get his haircut and be taller in the reflection of the mirror by the time the next summer rolled around. The days would grow shorter and cooler. The watermelons and the games played, including the multiple seeds spit in succession to emulate a machine gun, would become a memory as time marched on. It wasn’t stopping for any of us dragging our feet in defiance.
A little more innocence would be taken from us in the course of time that stretched across a school year… We never really grasped that there wouldn’t come another summer exactly like the last or the same chance to overindulge in the sweet taste and feel of the sweet melon as we savored the taste of freedom in summer.
Finally, one summer day rolled around and the magic was gone… the innocence lost… They even figured out how to grow watermelons with almost no seeds… Never thought that would happen…
I’m not at my best in the grocery store – kinda like a duck outta water you might say, but every so often the stars align and I wander through the aisles out of necessity. Halfway through summer, and my wife out of town, I spotted the green giants of the produce section and tapped on seven or eight with my index and middle fingers. Now, this city raised country boy can pick a melon… not to mention I got a deal to boot.
My wife laughed when she got home and was cutting up my hand picked melon, “Didn’t you read the sign? – This has seeds!”
“Didn’t even think of it,” I answered with sincerity.
I ate more than my than my fair share standing at the kitchen sink spittin’ seeds with pinpoint accuracy… smiling that bittersweet half grin, remembering the watermelon seed wars and the days we believed would last forever. I reflected on the magic of those days that although gone now live forever inside of us… and how the innocence passes with another season along with the turning of the leaves.