A school bus passes through a rural area Wednesday while dropping students off in Belgrade. As the school year winds down, June stirs up memories for Amy Calder of summers spent playing outside and spending time with friends. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Oh, getting off that school bus for the last time in June was pure bliss.

We had the whole summer ahead of us, and that meant waking early to blue skies and chattering birds, breezes sweeping through the window screens and the scent of fresh-cut grass.

Adventure awaited us, every day.

Summer meant our friend, Deborah, with the long red hair would ride her bike the half-mile from her house to ours, full of vim and vigor, eager to delve into whatever we could dream up for the day.

Sometimes it was a ride to Pemaquid to sit in the warm white sand and dive into the frigid waves, all salt and seaweeds, and then run back to our post on the beach and my mother’s cream cheese and olive sandwiches, iced tea and cookies.

Other days, we ran through the fields and woods, built lean-tos with fir and pine boughs on beds of moss, climbed birch trees to their tops, allowing them to drop us, slowly to the ground as we watched them snap back up again.


During the long days of summer in Skowhegan, we raided my father’s vegetable garden, plucking carrots from the earth and tomatoes from the vine, collapsing on the grass and munching away to our hearts’ content. Ripe, sour rhubarb was another summer treat.

We were kids of the earth, you might say. Most of our snacks came from what was growing, though once in a great while, they were delivered by the ice cream man’s truck that came lumbering down the road, whimsical music emanating from its cab. We’d buy Fudgsicles or Popsicles, the least pricey of the offerings, at 5 cents a pop. Ice cream sandwiches were 10 cents.

If we collected enough beer and soda bottles along neighborhood roads, we’d haul them to the candy store a mile away and get the good stuff — taffy and licorice, root beer barrels, hot balls, mint juleps and bubble gum.

School seemed a long way off once we got going into summer. We forgot about arithmetic and science and gym and health, though we read books on rainy days. The outdoors provided us all the exercise we needed.

We swam in the pure, clear water of Lake George, fished in Wesserunsett Stream, built clubhouses in trees, played baseball and traipsed through fields and woods.

In the house, windows were left open. My mother always had a project going when she wasn’t at work. She’d wallpaper rooms, paint woodwork, wash curtains and quilts, thresh out closets, replace kitchen cabinets, refinish chairs and tables.


My mother loved Deborah as much as she loved her own kids, and Deborah was pleased to be included in her projects. Deborah would be perfectly content to wallpaper with my mother or sit on the piano bench and sing with her as my mother played tunes from the turn of the century, such as “On a Sunday Afternoon,” by Andrew Sterling and Harry Von Tilzer.

“On a Sunday afternoon, in the merry month of June, take a trip up the Hudson or down the bay, take a trolley to Coney or Rockaway,” they’d croon.

Oh, yes, the beginning of summer was a time like no other. It represented freedom, the donning of shorts and tees, running barefoot, sleeping outdoors on hot nights and laying plans for morning.

When we were young, summer meant one exciting day after another, with lazy ones in between. Summer seemed to last forever, an illusion we later learned was reserved only for the magic of childhood.

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We know now, in our wisdom, to savor each fleeting moment.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She is the author of the book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to CentralMaine.com.

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