You are only eleven years old. Waking up early, you rub your palms against your eyes and squint against the sun streaming through the spaces between your venetian blinds. As you roll over in bed, you already feel the humidity in the air, the stickiness on your skin. Slowly, you sit up and swing your legs to meet the floor and stand up, reaching to the ceiling attempting to wake your body up.
You slowly make your way down the narrow and steep stairs of your old house to find your dad, already awake and dressed, sitting in the living room hunched over his tackle box intricately working on his fishing lures. Without disturbing him, you pour yourself a glass of orange juice and sit down on the couch and watch as he works intently. He wishes you a good morning but you don’t talk much as his attention is focused elsewhere and you are still half asleep. After finishing your glass of juice, you climb upstairs to get ready for the day.
In the bathroom, you splash cool water on your face to awaken your senses. You slip into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and tie your tangled brown hair into a ponytail to keep your neck cool. And despite the air being blown into your room from the fans in the windows, the room is still stifling.
To escape the heat, you carefully descend the dangerous flight of stairs once more and pour yourself a bowl of Kix cereal and sit at the kitchen table, watching the beads of condensation roll down your second glass of orange juice. You put your dishes in the sink when you’re finished and peer into the living room only to find your dad in the same position as before, concentrating hard on the small pieces of fishing bait. Returning to your room, you leave the lights off, hoping to keep the room from heating up any more and lay on your bed reading the newest Harry Potter.
By mid-morning, the radio turns on downstairs to signify that your dad has finally relocated. You turn your TV on and watch the Animal Planet for a little while until your dad makes his way up the stairs to ask if you want to practice softball outside despite the heat. You happily agree–still completely unaware of your lack of talent for softball–and collect your mitt, bat, and softballs and bound outside into your backyard, which feels as if it goes on for miles. Your dad follows behind you with water bottles and sunscreen, which he forces you to slather on before throwing a single pitch.
Standing in front of the garden you had both planted, you swing relentlessly, hitting one out of every ten pitches—if that. But no matter how awful you are, you don’t realize it then because all your dad does is give you advice on how to improve your stance and how to swing in a straight line. Instead of listening to his advice however, all you can manage to do is imitate the baseball player’s you watch on TV and wiggle your butt while the pitch is thrown and spit before you get ready to swing. And even though you totally stink, you know your dad is having just as much fun laughing at your jokes.
After spending the afternoon in the blazing sun, you both finally return inside for lunch. Your dad makes you a grilled cheese sandwich that he nearly burns as you pour yourself a glass of apple juice and grab a can of Coca-Cola for him and put both on the coffee table in the living room. You put the baseball game on and when he brings your sandwich inside he sits down beside you, cracks open the can of Coke and sips it as you ask him to explain what an RBI is for the three hundredth time.
Once you finish eating, your dad suggests you go to White Pond, the perfect swimming spot for a day like today. You race to your room and slip into a bathing suit, grab a towel, and rush down the stairs, only careful enough not to slide all the way down. Squirting sunscreen on your hands, you rub it in all different directions on your milk white skin while you wait for your dad to come down the stairs. Finally, you load the car with boogie boards and hop in, rolling your window down and sticking your head outside to feel the breeze. Your dad’s hands beat the steering wheel in rhythm to “Scarlet Begonias” * as the music is carried along the wind. You drive along the highway, the late afternoon sun warming your skin and slowly, your eyelids begin to droop.
The next time you open them, you’ve arrived at the Pond, quickly shake off your grogginess, and rush to the waters edge. You lay your towel on the grass and with your dad’s help, inch your way into the water on the stone wall that leads into its depths. It’s slippery and without water shoes, one false move and it could all be over. But in his cut off jean shorts, he holds your hands to help you in and once you’re safely in the water, he swims past you and encourages you to follow. Not a very good swimmer, you decide to stay closer to shore and sit on the stone wall, watching him swim all the way out to the middle of the Pond where he finds a giant rock to stand on. He waves to you and you both laugh. You float in the water, staying close to the stone wall, in case you get tired and need a rest, and finally feel relief from the summer sun. You watch the tiny minnows swim past your toes and splash around to watch them take off in different directions.
After what feels like hours, your dad returns to your side and helps you out of the water, holding on to your pruney fingertips. You race back to the car and decide to get Italian take-out from your favorite restaurant for dinner. As you drive down the highway once more, the late afternoon sun and warm breeze dry the hairs around your forehead and make your skin feel brand new.
You return home with your Italian dishes to sit at the coffee table once more and he puts on The Beatle’s movie, “A Hard Day’s Night.” You eat until you’re just about to explode when your dad suggests making malted milk shakes. You excitedly agree and when he goes into the kitchen thunder rumbles the house. Frightened, you abandon the movie and race to the kitchen to watch as he puts ice cream into the blender. You hear the rain begin to patter on the roof and pour down the gutters. The thunder booms outside and you almost jump out of your seat. But your dad turns the blender on and suddenly, the sound of thunder is masked and you have nothing to be afraid of anymore.
Returning to the living room with your shakes, you stretch out on the couch and after only two sips, your eyes flutter closed and you are asleep. The next time you open them, you’re in bed as your dad places a kiss on your forehead and leaves your bedroom as quietly as possible, not realizing you’ve woken up.
He turns in the doorway of your bedroom, his silhouette tall and lanky.
“Thanks for the best day.”
Even in the dim light from the hallway, you can see a smile spread across his face as he replies, “I love you Abigail. Sweet Dreams. Sleep Tight.”
Finally, the humidity has lifted and a cool breeze drifts into your room as sleep overcomes you in one swift gesture.
*For those of you that would like to hear “Scarlet Begonias”, here it is!