Childhood Memory: All Summer Long – 1975

published Jan 31, 2022
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Credit: Maxwell Ryan
There's the sun drenched end of the old living room, but this is after my father moved out in 2012 and we got ready to rent it out. The french doors were not there when I was a kid. My father added that later. Originally it was just a big picture window with the sofa and rug in front of it.

NOTE: These short memory stories, dropped in as they are to my Ask Maxwell column, do serve a purpose. While definitely different, my aim is to provide context for what we were thinking when we were children, which will help us to understand our own children. I find that in going back into my own childhood and sharing stories of my own struggles and what I was thinking at the time has been very helpful in connecting with my own daughter as she has grown. I would urge you to take these a little bits of inspiration to share your own childhood stories with your kids at bedtime. I guarantee you will receive rapt attention. 🙂

When I was a child we didn’t go into the living room in the old house very often. It was a large room, at the other end, far from the comfortable, small kitchen. Of course, my father would always bring guests in there by the fireplace and they’d sit and talk before dinner. In the winter he’d put a Duraflame log on the fire and light it on both ends. He always found the Duraflame log much easier and more satisfying than building a fire out of logs. I loved the smell of the Duraflame as I lit the two ends and watched the paper burn slowly along the top seam towards the middle, letting out the smell of the hard packed sawdust catching fire. He gave me that job once I had proved myself. 

In summer, the living room fell quiet. Guests were entertained outside and no one really played the white, grand piano that stood in the corner. But at the far end was a big picture window with a rattan sofa and brown and white fur rug right in front of it. It faced east. In the late morning the window would fill up with sun and shine down onto the fur rug. I think it must have been made out of rabbit skins or maybe it was actually sheep skins. All I remember is that it was the softest thing in the whole house, and it was down there at the far end of the living room where no one went.

I remember one morning very specifically. I was nine, the house was quiet, and, as I headed downstairs, instead of making the left to the kitchen at the landing like I usually did, I went right and came down off the landing towards the big wooden formal front door that was always stuck and the big open living room with the picture window to the left. I was bored, restless, listless and probably thinking about the three book reports that I would have to write before the end of the summer. Procrastination was a strength from an early age. Drawn to the great shaft of sun coming through the picture window I walked past the TV nook and the fireplace – slowly like someone bidden by an alien beam down to the far end of the room – and lay myself  on the rug, feeling the warm fur and the sun all over me at once. I closed my eyes – it was so bright – and lay there for what seemed like the whole morning. 

Being held in perfect warmth all over my body was new. It filled me with a sense of joy and time seemed to stop. Nothing else mattered. The sun was soaking me through. 

I kept lying there. My mind wandered. I didn’t want to move. I started to think about how summer was my favorite time of year and how nice it was that it lasted just as long as winter. At that time I thought that summer lasted exactly as long as winter and that so did my summer vacation. Summer was freedom. Winter was school. 

I was filled with appreciation for all the adults who had made summer vacation half of the year while the other half was school. As I lay in the sun on the rug at the quiet end of the living room in the old house, I loved them so much.

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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