The beginning of summer always reminds me of being sent off to my grandparents' farm for a couple of weeks once school ended. We would make the trek up from Virginia and meet my grandparents halfway, often in Frederick, MD. We'd always have lunch at a Burger King (my grandpa liked their strawberry shakes), and then we would move luggage from one car to the next, and my grandma would begin the long drive up into the mountains towards their home. I would 'entertain' them in the car by singing all the songs I knew and playing the license plate game or 'I spy,' and my grandmother, ever the cheerful one, laughed and sang along and made the hours pass by quickly. There was always a thermos of iced tea in the trunk, so when we stopped at a rest area, we had plenty of refreshment.
Getting to the house was a thrill, and I always raced immediately upstairs to unpack my bags, folding all my things neatly into the dresser drawers or hanging them in the closet. Summer days were long and sweet then, filled with singing and frolicking in green pastures, tending to horses, swimming in my uncle's pool that was freezing cold and filled with water from a mountain spring, picking vegetables in the garden, listening to my grandfather tell stories, helping my grandma cook and run errands, and swinging on the small wooden swing (made from some rope and an old board) under the huge pine tree. When we would go on adventures (which was usually to a garden club meeting, to church, or to check in on a relative), I would stick my arm out the window as we buzzed up and down those winding mountain roads, and sometimes, when we hit a particular bend in the road just right, I almost felt like I was flying.
Evenings were spent watching the news (well, my grandfather watched), playing monopoly after dinner, and staying up as late as I wanted reading or talking with my grandma, a fellow night owl. Sometimes we would drive into one of the neighboring towns to have dinner and see a play, but usually time was spent tucked up in those familiar hills, with only the lightning bugs and the echo of our voices against the quiet mountains to keep us company.
For as long as I am here on this earth, I will remember the smell of the sweet grass in the pastures, the cool of the horse feed I would plunge my arm into to see how far down into the barrel I could reach, the sound of the birds lazily singing in the trees during the heat of the afternoon, the softness of my grandmother's arms around me when I ran to her for a hug, my grandfather's booming voice (much too loud to ever become a whisper, though he tried in the mornings not to wake me)...all the details, big and small, that made those times the closest thing to perfection this side of heaven.