When I finally arrive, I hear the voices, the ones I grew up listening to: the southern accent is a sweet, familiar sound to homesick ears.
I used to talk that way, but now the accent only emerges when I’m in the south or speaking with another person with a southern accent. It’s a funny thing… it is only snoozing, just waiting for a chance to come out and speak its voice.
At home, the air is full of drifting pink camellias and the sun is bright, the sky is a deep blue. A soft warm breeze brushes past me. I don’t need a jacket here. Grasshoppers the size of a small child’s hand leap in the grass. Lizards scurry along the walls of the house. The sweetgum tree is full and luscious. A baby pomegranate promises to grow.
On many summer days, Mom would place a large glass jar full of water and tea bags on the back deck, allowing the warmth of the sun to “brew” the tea. I’d watch the water swirl from clear to deep brown. She’d add some fresh mint sprigs and sugar, a few ice cubes, and then I’d have the best iced tea a girl in the south could have.
How much light and warmth changes the inward person, infusing the soul with something new, a sweet taste? Each summer, I am coaxed deeper into faith by the new life I see.
We’d pull out the old ice cream maker on warm nights, pour in the rock salt, turn the monstrosity “on”, and bear with the loud noise until we tasted the creamy goodness. Sometimes, I’d rollerskate on the street to pass the time, eagerly waiting for a bowl of cold milky summer.
Freshly picked blueberries, peaches plucked directly from the tree, and home-grown tomatoes are the tastes of summertime vacation at home. Big-hearted people welcome me with their warm, “hey, y’all! greetings. I have to drive through the town square flanked by street lamps and old-fashioned shops to get to the ole Southern church I grew up in, where I heard about Jesus. It’s the place I decided to follow him, just like in that old hymn we used to sing.
Traveling home each summer whisks me from present to past, then from past to present, and back and forth, jolting me with role reversals, as I watch the strong become weak, the young become old and fragile.
I travel hundreds of cement miles away just to be under that sun, and be whisked back into those days, and then thrust into reality again. And to see Mom and Dad, still swinging on their back porch.
I dive into this kind of summer, this kind of dripping green, this slow nostalgia. I see sprigs of summer hope in my imagination, ripe for the picking, and I wrap my hands around them and pluck them, keep them, plant them for future days.
An old familiar ache hits me again, a homesickness that won’t go away. Walking by faith sometimes feels like a winter to me, until I see summer again, with unfolding hope and burgeoning fullness, with the promise of newer and better things to come.
And summer vacation is this to me: the melding of the past, present and future, the tying together of memories, the resting under the warmth of the sun, allowing time and love to do its blossoming, mellowing work.
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