Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sheepish Musical Pleasures: Seals and Crofts, "Summer Breeze"

This time of year I always get a jones for this song, and I must sheepishly admit that it's the first that I ever bought on iTunes.  (It's the perfect iTunes purchase, since I didn't want a full Seals and Croft album, and buying it at the store would have hurt my street cred.)  Back when I lived in Michigan, the local oldies station used to play it a lot, and I always felt it was the perfect accompaniment to the long, golden summer evenings of Grand Rapids.

Its mellow feel and images also remind me of early summer nights when I was a child, the times growing up when I was by far the happiest.  At school I had few friends and experienced constant teasing and bullying.  It didn't help that my two best friends went to a different school after the second grade (our parents pulled us out of the draconian Catholic school we attended, but my friends lived in another public school district.)  During the summer I could spend more time with them, and many an evening was spent at my buddy Dan's place, shooting hoops until the sun went down and I had to go home.  I will never know such a purely care-free existence ever again in my life, which must be what my Dad meant when he told me to appreciate my childhood.

This song reminds me especially of early summer, which I think of as the period between Memorial Day and the summer solstice.  Out in my rural Nebraska homeland, the prairie exploded into life and the corn stalks suddenly shot out of the ground, their leaves green beyond green.  During this blessed four week period the days seemed to last forever, and the oppressive heat of summer in the Great Plains had yet to burn up the outdoors.  In these precious late May and early June days, you really could still feel a cool summer breeze.  Not so in July and August, when the Nebraska air gets so hot that it feels like the wind is blasting out of some kind of massive hair dryer.

In the early summer, I could still taste my freedom from school, and savor it without any thoughts of having to go back, which pretty much dominated my mind from late-July forward.  (Yes, I was an anxious child.)  It seemed like the summer movies that I cared about the most always seemed to come out during this particular part of summer.  On the evening after my last day of school in the first grade, my family went to see The Return of the Jedi at the newly finished mall multiplex, and being the exact right age to appreciate Ewoks, I went home exhilarated.  Six years later, after my last day of school in seventh grade, a friend and I saw the end of another epic trilogy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I still remember visiting my aunt and uncle's house after the movie was over, jabbering away at all the amazing stuff I'd seen, from rats in catacombs to the scene when one of the characters chooses the wrong grail.  That night, with school over and a joyous cinematic experience fresh in my head and the summer stretched out before me like the milk and honey-giving valleys of a promised land of easeful leisure, may have been among the happiest that I ever knew as a child.  When I listen to "Summer Breeze," I get to feel a small fraction of that care-free satisfaction.

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