The morning is cool, with just a hint of heat to come. A dull thud at the front door announces the arrival of the daily paper. Outside, the heavy clouds of last night's rainstorm melt away, as the eastern sky begins to show pink. It will be sun visors for sure.
In the carport, Father finishes the heavy packing. Mother spreads another dollop of mayonnaise on a Kaiser roll and throws the latch on the wicker basket. Grandma climbs into her bomber jacket, Sis and Leo tumble down the front steps and a moment later, the DeSoto jumps the curb and we're on our way: a weekend at the family beach house.
"Pass a deviled egg, won't you?" Father is in a wonderful mood this morning, as the highway yields up miles at a clip. With our early start, we're ahead of the traffic, just as he said we'd be. You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to get the drop on Father, Mother says. Father just beams, as Sis takes up a chorus of "Rise and Shine" and Leo barks in time.
The house looks as good as ever, and we've got the silt and dead clams off the kitchen floor by noon. Everything else is just as I remember it. The shelves are fairly bursting with Reader's Digest condensed books and National Geographics, the cupboards with packets of powdered milk, lemonade and "Stroganoff Helper." It's a house you don't want to leave, Father says.
Grandma leaves, to find her friends at the Golden Age Shore Patrol. Sis wolfs down a watercress sandwich and a brandy, slips into something smaller, and stalks the dunes for eligible men. The rest of us eat a leisurely lunch on the front porch. It's simply glorious out, and not even a call from brother Dickie, who'd hoped to drive down from the city later in the day but is tied up at the bank, can dampen our spirits. In fact, our spirits are being served both damp and extra dry by now, and as the sun slides toward the west across the afternoon sky, Father does likewise on the ground. Mother props him up in his chair and we trade war stories.
Sis is back, with a young gentleman in tow: "Daddy, this is Hercule." Hercule has blue hair. He is, Sis tells us, "into punk video," and soon he and Father are thrashing out the relative merits of Tommy Dorsey, Jerry Lester and Devo. Father seems to be holding his own.
"Hullo! We're outside, is anybody inside?" That would be the Rodericks, here for the first dinner of the season. They seem only slightly unsettled at Hercule's lights and portable camera. The soundtrack comes later, he tells them.
Father pours drinks all around. Mother mops up. Dickie calls again to say he's still tied up at the bank.
The conversation and laughter criss-cross the parlor and grow louder as the outside light grows dimmer. Mr. Roderick works for the Administration, closing down things, and has wonderful stories to tell. Father stands suddenly and starts singing the theme from "Death Valley Days," while Leo bays high harmony. Hercule gets it all on tape and wants to show it to us again right away, but Mr. Roderick is not amused and Hercule goes off to the den instead to shoot Leo.
The women begin to see about dinner, while the men teach old Army songs to young Broderick. He is in his third minute of shouting "inky-dinky-parlez-vous" when the front door opens and there stands Grandma.
She is red as a beet, red as a lobster.
Mother enters from the kitchen. "You had us very worried. You know what time you were expected home." She turns to me. I take Grandma by the ankles, Mother's got her by the wrists, and we quickly carry her to the backyard and lower her into the vat, balancing her on the potatoes and onions. Steam starts to rise from the water, and Mother checks her watch and smiles. "Chowder will be served in fifteen minutes."
Dinner is great success, and the Rodericks leave stuffed and happy. We're invited to their house next weekend.
Leo is stuffed and happy, too, having made quick work of Hercule's microphone and tapedeck during an interview for Hercule's new documentary, "Dune Dogs: They Bark for Themselves." Sis has driven Hercule into town for rabies shots.
Dickie calls again to report that the police have arrived at the bank and untied him. He hopes to see us all during the week.
Father has a quick scotch and he and Mother retire for the night. We'll be leaving early tomorrow, Father announces, to beat the traffic. "You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to get the drop on Father," says Mother.
Grandma takes a moonlight walk along the beach, and a light breeze kicks up and bears her off toward Vermont.
I douse the lights in the parlor, and Leo and I amuse ourselves singing old show tunes in the dark. I sing harmony.
It's another splendid summer.