Summer breeze, blowing through the jasmine in my mind
The restaurant mom worked in was closed Monday nights. For a time, she'd pick up a bartending/bookkeeping job on Mondays at a bar in Baldwin. Summer was different, she'd be home Mondays (and many a Thursday, too). We'd have dinner out at the picnic table on the patio and at least one of those nights, after dinner, we'd head down to Newbridge pool for a swim.
The green flies were abundant (the pool is right on the canals leading to the Great South Bay), but the breeze off the bay made even the hottest summer night quite pleasant. Mom would sneak in her white wine spritzer and camp out under on of the canopies with all the towels with her cigarette in hand. She'd finish the smoke and a drink, then she'd come join us in the pool. She loved it. You could tell, because she'd be singing off key the whole time*. We'd frequently stay until the pool closed at 10pm. If she'd had a good week waitressing, we'd stop by the Carvel on the way home for Brown Bonnets or Flying Saucers.
Once in a blue moon, this would be altered by a trip to Jones Beach. As none of her cars would have air conditioning, the drive down the parkway would involve rolling all the windows down . The wind whipping by and the smell of the ocean were intoxicating. We'd head to Field 4, enjoying a trip through the tunnel, a walk on the boardwalk and the smell of french fries from the concession stand. To this day, twilight swims are magical to me, especially on those rare occasions that I can get to a sandy beach.
Dad's summer routine also involved a lot of swimming. His years of being a mailman made him an early bird, which meant his days off were no different. Sunday mornings, he'd be at the front door before 7am, sometimes just before 6. Sleepily, Giggles and I would head to the car for that same trip down to the beach, but in the daylight to Field 6. As this Field had the shortest beach, it was the most popular. Many times, the parking lot would be filled to capacity by 9am.
Dad's analytical mind proved successful on this front. He ensured we arrived early, and we'd never be further back in the parking lot than the third row. We'd get the coveted spot at the beach next to the largest lifeguard stand, always on the right. This meant we had nothing in front of us but beach and nothing to the left but the roped off lifeguard area.
Dad and I always had a book with us, sometimes the Sunday paper (at this point, Giggles really hadn't been much of a reader). There would be a cooler with Diet Cokes, grapes, bananas, plums and other snacks. I'd have a transistor radio tuned to Casey Kasem and would doze off and on while "American Top 40" played. When the show was over at noon, this usually meant it was time to head over to Freeport Rec. (I think Dad enjoyed AT40 as much as I did-though he never said. Had he not, we would have left before that number one song played each week)
Back up the Meadowbrook Parkway we'd go. We'd laugh at the inevitable traffic jam in the opposite direction, headed down to the beach. Ha ha, we just spent 5 or 6 hours down here and you won't be on the beach for at least another hour! Sometimes, if we were heading further north, up to the mall, we'd find the traffic jam went as far up as the Southern State parkway. Hard core beach fans, willing to sit in a five mile backup for some coveted time on the sand.
As if 5 or 6 hours on the beach with SPF 4 wasn't enough, the trip to the Rec meant Dad got in a two hour workout and Giggles and I got more swim time in the pool. I was not lucky enough to inherit Dad's olive complexion like Giggles-many of the Sundays meant that I was pink or possibly red on Monday. Meanwhile, the two of them got the perfectly sun kissed look I have never in my life achieved.
The neurologist's suggestion of getting in the salt water got me thinking of all the time I spent with my parents waterlogged when I was growing up. Now Chef Jr can hold his own and Gameboy really wants to swim. It gives me hope of sharing the joys of summer Sundays with them, too.
**When Gameboy was an infant, anytime I got him in the water, I'd bounce him to the sounds of me humming "The Mexican Hat Dance". It wasn't until Mom got in the pool in Florida with the boys a few years later until I realized why I did it. She'd done that with each of us kids every summer at Newbridge. It just seems to fit together, like peanut butter and jelly.