Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summers with Shannie

Everything that I always dreamed was possible existed in the carefree summertime when Shannie would come to visit. We would spend our time walking about barefoot, out in the garden, out on the rope swing.

On hot summer days, there was nothing like climbing up to the old tree house and swinging out over the snake pit, so called because we were imaginative youth. Though all the snakes we ever found were harmless garter snakes, and never more than one or so at a time.

Everything was blooming, gardens full of fresh vegetables, bushes brimming with roses, full blossomed roses and spicy hot pink ones. We were blooming along with it all, awakening each day to the newness of life as young women.

Shannie and I liked to walk downtown, wandering in and out of the deserted shops just to get out of the sun which had tanned our skin and bleached our hair. Each air conditioned oasis was a chance to find someone to tease.

Our usual attire, cut offs and t-shirts adorned with natural bead anklets and bracelets, and as many rings as we could fit onto our fingers.

We talked of life, as we walked in the oppressive heat, we talked of becoming fishermen up in Alaska, a lark of an idea we got out of a newspaper ad.

Our favorite place to visit was Ako Ako which we called "The Blue Door" because the name was not conspicuous above it. We socialised with the owners, hippies lost from the 70's still apparently smoking weed and breathing incense as the air. The shop stunk, smoke filled, and perfumed.

It was full of hemp fiber purses, jewelery made from mood stones and crystals, American Indian things such as feathers and pipes, posters of Bob Marley and Jimmy Hendricks, it was eclectic.

The music that wafted down over their large speakers was usually something by "The Doors," "Jimmy Hendricks," "Bob Marley" at times, at times "The Grateful Dead."

It was always a fascinating venture to visit Ako Ako, but they were not always open, so often we found ourselves sitting in a little Chinese place called "The Four Winds Restaurant."

There we would order egg drop soup and some pop because it was cheap. Then as we were waiting we would sit around writing ridiculous songs or singing something from "The Beatles," our favorite group.

We had a favorite waitress, "Jenna," she treated us well though we were just silly kids, we asked her about herself, her life. She wanted to be an accountant, she was only working there during the summers, it was a family business.

Hot summer days often led to cool nights, nights spent out sleeping on the lawn, in the front yard to be conspicuous.

Our neighbors often came over to chat as we sat in our sleeping bags, snuggled up cross legged. We would all gaze up at the stars and discuss music, art, school, philosophy and religion, anything that came to mind.

Shannie and I had our opinions of who we thought was cute out of the neighbor boys, my crush was my best friends brother, he called himself S. He barely seemed to know that I was alive, much to my consternation, yet we were friends, we were all friends.

Friendship oddly defined at this time, friendship newly being explored, trials of adult relationships on innocent flirtations.

One of the wildest celebrations that I ever went to was a church social at the lake, Polynesians really know how to celebrate.

It was a camp out that lasted a week. We were there one night, rather late, the sky held an odd orange glow, everyone was walking around talking to everyone.

Shannie went for a walk with S around the lake, he said he had something to talk about with her, it drove me crazy.

I was sitting there drumming my fingers on the metal top of the park service picnic tables when a Tongan guy came up, short, dressed in baggy clothes, with a knitted Jamaican style hat that reached his knees.

I could tell he liked me, though he didn't speak much English, he was trying to talk to me but I was distracted. Finally Shannie returned without S. I asked her what they were talking about but she wouldn't tell me.

So I said goodbye to my new friend and linked my arm through Shannies and we went off in search of something to do. Something presented itself as the kids had all gotten up a game of rolling down a hill around the bend of the lake away from the eyes of our parents.

It was exhilarating, rolling down the hill in the dark, linking our arms together and running down the hill as a chain. It was an atmosphere charged with electricity, bumping up against the boys in the dark, you never knew who you would run into.

The only regret that I had over this was that I lost my hemp and bead anklet, part of a set of anklet, bracelet and necklace, this distressed me but I let it slide as we took off on a midnight walk with S and his brother, teasing them all the way.

We would poke at them, they would hold our wrists and make us squirm, we would jump up on their backs and make them carry us. We all had fun walking around in the dark, the smell of the lake full bodied in the summer air and the stars brilliant overhead the sky darkening after the long drawn out sunset. It was a night of senses, and senselessness.

Our time spent with the neighbors was cut short that year though, we were going to the Grand Canyon for vacation and Shannie was coming with us. The only sadness about that was the fact that we would drop her off in Phoenix after we were through.

We prepared for our trip in usual teenage fashion, packing our clothing and accessories, not to mention toiletries, perfumes, art supplies and of course our extensive CD collection and our journals.

We dreamed, as we sat in the back of the motor home, of meeting some cute guys on the trip, fickle girls. I moaned about my little outbreaks of acne and bought some witch hazel astringent at a gas station to try and get rid of it, but it made it worse.

We stopped off at a little campground on the way, perfect opportunity to get out and meet the locals. Shannie and I got out to explore and found a small stream running through the trees nearby.

Everyone seemed to have one thing on their mind, cooling off, so the crazed campers were all sitting down in the water and scooting along the stream. Shannie and I were no exception, we hopped right in.

After this distraction we got out our cameras and took pictures of the trees and chipmunks.

We moved on reaching the Grand Canyon after many dizzying miles of road and there found ourselves standing in the gift shop, kids in a candy store as we both had money from our parents. Shannie had a hundred dollars, I had a hundred, we thought we were rich!

I shortly found out though that a hundred dollars didn't go far in a gift shop, I bought some sandstone earrings set in gold that set me back a cool twenty. I put the change back into my flat wallet, made of a soft brown leather that I had adorned with scribbles and doodles of flowers and a peace sign.

I felt a little sick at losing part of the hundred, though I liked my earrings, because I knew how long it usually took me to save that much.

Shannie was smart, didn't buy anything there, we went back to the camper to wait together for the others to show up. It was getting rather late, and we were tired from the long drive so we lay down in the bed above the driver seat and read a bit.

Finally we were off, dad found a campground and we set up camp in the twilight, and ate convenience foods like hot dogs and chips since it was too late to set up a camp fire. Though Daniel, my little brother certainly felt like setting one up, he came in blackened from lighting a fire with fire starter and he stunk.

Shannie and I made a fuss about it and dad made him wash up and change his clothes outside, it was very late when we finally got to sleep that night and we planned to go and watch the sunrise over the canyon in the morning so Daniels stunt really irritated me.

We got to sleep and it seemed the next moment that dad was fussing about, waking us up. He has a particularly annoying way of doing this, turning on the light and singing. We got up grumpy and stayed grumpy until we were seated in front of plate sized pancakes and orange juice which tasted horrible together!

We ate what we could, the pancakes were so big, then we left what was left and headed out to the terrace where people were gathering to watch the sunrise.

There, over canyons of unimaginable depth, the sun rose in gradating splendor and we were met standing in front of the hot glory of the bright morning sun.

We had certainly awoken during this moment, standing blinking before it, yet still we yawned from lethargy over the late night. I had a headache to boot. We would have been glad to go back to the motor home to sleep, but dad had other ideas, he marched us out to the trail head and told us we were going to climb up for a few miles.

This elicited groans of protest from all of us, but nevertheless we were there to see the canyon, so the canyon is what we were going to see. We walked past high sandstone walls, beautiful red rock.

Shannie and I found a crevice on the way up that looked like it would be interesting to explore. As the others walked past, we started to climb up into the crevice, but were soon confronted by an angry German guy who told us off for our temerity.

Thus chagrined from our rebellious venture we climbed back down and joined the others as quickly as we could, giggling to ourselves over the incident.

We finally reached the top of the hike and looked out over the canyon, it was impressive, but we were tired. So we took pictures, Shannie and I mocking a fall into the abyss.

We stood with our arms around each other, trying to appreciate what we knew was one of the great wonders of the world. The climb up the trail, had made us hungry, that, combined with the late night made an extended stay up there an uncomfortable idea.

We were rescued by the whines of my little brother, Evan, who was only about four years old at the time. Thus we headed back to the motor home, back down the trail to the unreality of reality as we sat at the Formica table in the motor home to eat.

A sudden rush to leave gripped my dad as things often do for him, and we hurried then to finish and clean up.

We were on our way again, heading west through Indian lands and Indian ways. We stopped off on our way at a rest stop and encountered the hostile stares of the locals for our intrusion, I felt it keenly.

The road side boutiques were interesting affairs, made up of plywood and two by fours. They were attended by mothers sitting behind square tables, fanning themselves in the heat their black hair glistened in their braids.

Hushed children peeked out at us from behind the tables and chairs, unconfined curiosity burned on their dusty faces, as we examined hand wrought silver and turquoise jewelery, leather purses and feathers cunningly hanging from dream catchers tied with leather and sinew.

If anything, I should have spent my money there, yet I was foolish in my judgement and shy as well. I wasn't quite certain if these beautiful pieces of living history could speak the same language as I, and so I said nothing to them as I stood there at a distance, letting my dad converse in his energetic way.

At last we turned again to our reality, and drove along observing the domed adobe houses and dusty arid desert, each absorbed in their own thoughts until we came out of the past and into the future of gas stationed splendor and shopping carts clanging together, full of thoroughly modern food.

We stopped off at a little lake on the way, not sure exactly where, it was there that we were to spend a few days to rest before we reached our destination. It was there where immaturity and maturity blossomed together in our youthful hearts.

The chance to get out and walk was appealing to Shannie and I, though we were forced to stay and help with dinner. Our feet were itching to explore as we ate and we set off as soon as we had finished to wander about.

I had taken to wearing Shannies clothes as my own didn't seem as appealing at the moment. So I had on her green shirt, the fashion of which was to leave untied at the top, laces left loose and her shorts which were a dark denim blue.

She had on her usual favorite one piece jumper, shirt and shorts made of light denim, with a red shirt underneath. She always looked assured, no matter what she was wearing. I was uncomfortable with myself at most times.

On this night we happened upon two boys, sitting on the dock by the lake, working on their fishing boat and cursing.

They looked us up and down as we stood there eyeing them back, and Shannie asked them about what they were doing.

As it turned out, they were fixing the motor on their boat. After a few minutes of conversation they invited us out with them the following morning to go for a ride.

So the next day, we packed a cooler of pop and snacks, nothing substantial, and headed out with them. Heaven only knows why my parents agreed.

We sat out there legs tanning in the sun, bare toes kissed by the wind as we conversed with these strange boys who apparently lived around there. Luckily for me my earlier shyness had burned off with the peek of the morning sun so I didn't feel awkward.

They tried fishing, yet kept reeling in lake bottom and weeds so eventually we called it good and went back.

We decided to swim after this, so we changed and met again. We mostly floated in the shallows of the lake as hands brushed together under murky waters and meaningful glances passed (and chaste little kisses as well).

Eventually we got cold and we all agreed to change then to go for a walk after dinner. So we changed back into our original clothing and ate, mulling things over as we sat, Shannie and I secretly communing with our thoughts.

We went out for our walk and met up, soon we found ourselves sitting, paired off, on a picnic bench gazing off to the purple mountains in the distance. We had been hyper, running off of sugar, and chatting about the moon, the stars, and our "shroom" garden at home. We told them to avoid the dotted red ones because they could make you high, we were giddy from sleepiness and hormones, secretly enjoying running our imaginations wild.

The night grew late, probably eleven or twelve and we had been sitting out there for a while until we were yawning and snoozing as we leaned against each other. We said our good nights, as Shannie and I walked, a bit subdued, to the motor home to rest.

We said goodbye in the morning. They waved to us from the dock, where they sat working at their motor again, and we grinned as we explained my dads rush to leave.

There was a glance that passed from boy to girl, and we left pondering what it meant, that look.

It was only a short time before I was hugging Shannie to say goodbye, another summer had passed. Yet there were summers to come, and memories that would last.


  1. Such a delightful memory that has been wonderfully written for our enjoyment. Please keep them coming.

  2. I did so enjoy this post, I could imagine what you were writing and felt I was there with you.
    It's wonderful to have such memories to look back on yet still think of what lies ahead.
    I look forward to your next instalment.


  3. What a sweet memory. How nice it is to be with someone who brings out the kid in us, but with whom we can also share our adult selves.

    Nicely written.


  4. Please do write more.. Psst I was on that trip .. you did not see me LOL

    LOVE IT cannot wait for more

  5. I really like it. Looking forward to the rest! And is it a true story?

    The first half is especially beautiful; all the lazy, summer imagery. Perfect. :)

  6. Annie, you take us on a real journey in this narrative. Nostalgic, carefree... thanks for sharing :)

  7. Annie- I really enjoyed the story but I looked twice and couldn't find the ages and it leaves me wondering. Sometimes I'm thinking nine and sometimes fourteen. Either way, it's a great summer read. ~rick

  8. These summers with Shannie take place when I was 14, 15, and 16. ;D Thanks Rick.

    Thank you everyone who has commented. My internet service has been down so we shall see how much I get posted in the next couple of days.