I don’t know which summer it was, but it had to be the early sixties. Charlie, the colony owner, usually played WNEW AM radio over the PA—William B. Williams silky voice forever attaching itself to lazy summer afternoons of youth. The song “The Autumn Leaves” was popular on radio playlists, and I remember it softly echoing throughout the colony grounds.
“…The falling leaves drift by my window…The autumn leaves of red and gold…I see your lips, the summer kisses…The sunburned hand I used to hold.” Now, forty years forward, if I chance to hear that melody it reels me back to flashing images of that summer—pop-flies and fireflies, swimming and stickball, mountains and marshmallows and mosquitoes and Marcia Clayman’s dimpled smile.
In middle age one looks back and the decades, let alone the years and seasons, seem to meld and mix so effortlessly that the mind is tricked and confused. In reassembling the jigsaw puzzle of the past just which pieces fit in together? Was Autumn Leaves a share of the soundtrack from the summer of my first kiss and the great Maris-Mantle race to reach Ruth’s record? Or was it instead in the summer of the great day camp revolt—when my group rebelled against a truly sadistic and autocratic camp director? Or was that the summer of “A Hard Days Night” and the Dodger’s late pennant run, or did it correspond with the emergence of the Beach Boys and the Cardinals overtaking of the collapsing Phillies?
In my mind’s eye I can still summon vivid portraits of the great friends of my youth, even if their names sometimes elude my grasp. In our present time we’d likely appear as strangers to each other, so long has it been since we last shared laughter and adventure. No doubt our children are older than we’d been during those summers, when we wore cut off denim shorts and plain white tee shirts, and sang in off key harmony to the Four Seasons and sipped Orange Crush. It was a time for climbing trees and scraping knees, before drugs, sex, real rock and roll, Dallas, Vietnam, Memphis, the moon landing, Woodstock and Kent State.
How is it that time is so pliant? What spanned a few years in youth appears as an eternity, while decades recently past seem as if a heartbeat. So much has transpired in our shrinking world. The past three decades contain a dose of history equal to the past two centuries. We have been both audience and actor in the script of our own private existences: high school, college, friends, adjustments, marriages—first and second and sometimes third—homes and children, jobs and careers, bills and annuities, births and deaths and rejoicing and remorse. In the true span of time it is a moment, a breath, a blink.
So, then, how to accurately reconstruct that which we most cherished of our past? Which moments, which songs, which friends, which venues, which summers?
It matters not. Satisfaction should dwell within the fact that it occurred at all. Contentment and gratitude for the memories, living still, though somewhat convoluted. Smile at the recollection of those friends of youth—the laughing, smiling, giggling, childhood faces belonging to those who so happily shared the endless days of music and magic in the mountains.
“Since you went away the days grow long…and soon I’ll hear old winter’s song…But I miss you most of all, my darling…When autumn leaves begin to fall…”
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