12-SolsticeOn hot summer Sundays after church, my dad packed the Buick with a cooler, charcoal, and his scratchy old Army blanket. We left the badminton birdies on the lawn next to the racquets, left our bikes in the garage, left the garage door open. Those were the days before our bikes were stolen, before we learned we could guard but not save what we held dear.

On hot summer Sundays, we’d pile into the Buick’s back seat and fight over who had to sit in the middle, while my mother nestled herself in the front with the baby. My father headed the car southeast, and when we got to Round-up Lake, he set up the grill while my mother took us to the bath house and showed us girls how to pee without having to take off our swimsuits.

On hot summer Sundays, we abandoned our Keds and our flip flops and ran to the water, stealing as much summer as we could sift through our wide-open fingers. The swim time was always too short, and the waiting-for-food-to-digest-time was always too long, but my mother was lighter, easier, free of the too-large table in the too-small kitchen, free of the stove, the sweat-soaked bandana, the endless bottle-feeding and tea-pouring, the breading, frying, baking, mashing, stirring, blending, ladling. Free of the hospital bracelet. At ease with the playpen and the green Army blanket resting side by side. My dad served us burgers and onions on toasted buns, and we crunched potato chips, the sound like far-away thunder in our waterlogged ears.

On hot summer Sundays, the afternoons always shrank like wool in hot water, and when the sun tinted everything golden, and we’d changed from our swimsuits back into our shorts, my legs still swaying from the rhythm of the waves and my hair still damp and my feet in their white Keds feeling as if they were walking on sponges, my mother might bring out the pineapple cheesecake if we were good, and we might sing to my father if it was his birthday, while he and my mom exchanged kisses.

On the hot summer Sundays when we didn’t have to take my mom back to the hospital instead of home with us, my father sometimes turned left on Lee Road instead of driving straight across, and then left on Broadway past the machine shop where he made airplane parts, and we knew we were going to the A&W where the neon lights made the faces of the carhop girls look like sunflowers.

On hot summer Sundays, when we got back from the lake we never had to take baths. We climbed the stairs to bed and started the exhaust fan, the hypnotic motion of its blades a soporific. I turned on my transistor radio and placed it under my pillow. It was the summer of Goldfinger and Mary Worth, the summer we would start September in a new school, the summer my mother bought my sisters and brothers swim rings and me a pen. We never caught the bike thieves. We never found the secret to keeping my mother well. But that summer, I watched the sun flick its fire on the pen’s shiny silver surface and understood how right it felt in my own small hand, how it could make the empty full again.

Joanne Lozar Glenn’s book Memoir Your Wayco-authored with five other writers, is forthcoming from Skyhorse Press. Her essays and poems have been published in Peregrine, Hippocampus, Under the Gum Tree, Ayris, The Northern Virginia Review, and other print and online media. She works as a freelance writer, editor, and educator and also leads destination writing retreats.

Photo by Frank Dina