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Golden Summer MAG
What is in a name? What is the worth of a name after the person is gone? There's an ancient Native American belief that to utter the name of the departed is to yank them away from paradise.
There is one name I have not dared to speak for many years. A lost friend, now forever nameless, and the summer when we were immortal.
I often look back at that golden summer when two young girls were still naive, just learning about life, family, and love. We'd run down to the spraying ocean, and all the waves were taller than us. It was a summer of cherry popsicles, of lying in the sand dunes and getting lost in the beauty of the sky. Two little girls got high on life and strawberries. We learned that potato chips go best in sandwiches, not on the side. It was a golden summer, never yellow, but golden.
That summer, when the wind rippled through strawberry sun-streaked hair, there was always a hint of salt in our shorts and sundresses. We filled the days with laughter and shrill shrieks as we chased each other around the jungles of the back yard. From the porch, we spun tales of what really happened up in those starry skies. Summer days were made of muddy knees and sand castles, and twinkling nights filled with silly promises and “never-forgets.”
Oh, the innocence. To look back now at that summer brings terrible pain on gloomy days. It was the pure truth of childhood that we in our houses across the street from the Native American burial ground thought nothing of death or sadness. Summer would last forever. How could we have known that life would change?
Summer days would transition into hospital nights and the smell of salt was replaced with medicinal soap. One girl would lose her hair and the other held her close as she cried, watching strawberry locks swept away like the morning tide. Second opinions drowned out memories of running down to the shore, and nausea erased the taste of sweet cherry popsicles. Laughter transformed into hoarse whispers, and little girls grew too old too fast.
One girl slowly left us, like the sun fading into twilight. I wish I could say that I was there at the end. That I defied the laws of hospital visitation and lied, saying I was family. I wish I had been there to hold her hand as the faint smell of salt diminished and her bright blue eyes once again visited the Cape shore.
I wish I could say something cliché like “I swear time stood still,” but it wasn't like that. It was a normal day. I laughed with friends, passed a math test, and bickered with a boy about something stupid. I wasn't prepared to come home to a tearful mother, a grief-stricken sister, and the weight-bearing thought that she was gone. I look back now, thinking that all I wanted was to have her talk to me and laugh with me one last time, and she never would.
I became hardened to the goodness in the world, the same world that had given us that golden summer. The sun rose in hues of red and royal gold, and I did not blink. Someone would reach for the old picture of the two of us, age nine, with cheeky smiles, pigtails, and wide eyes, and I'd look away.
Then, slowly, as I grew older and maybe wiser, I began to look around. I realized that even though she was gone, I could still carry on her spirit. I tried to be more aware, to be more alive.
I still put chips in turkey sandwiches and smile in ecstasy whenever I eat strawberries. I still love to sit on the dunes of the Cape and slurp cherry popsicles as the wind ripples my hair.
I will always hold onto the memories of that golden summer.