Summer Reading Inspiration

Digging through some totes in my living room, I found this archival evidence of my early obsession with books.

Library reading certificate, 1976.

During America’s Bicentennial year of 1976, my mother had enrolled me in a summer reading program at Jervis Public Library in my hometown of Rome, New York. The librarian had divided the group into two teams—the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees—and we competed against each other for the most books read over the course of the summer. I can’t remember which side I was on, but the librarian was prescient, because Cincinnati would meet New York in the World Series later that year, with the Reds sweeping the Yankees to win the title.

I wish I had a list of the eighteen books I had read during the summer of ’76, as I would like to revisit some of them now.

As for this summer’s reading list, I am starting off with these selections.

The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found, a memoir by Frank Bruni.

Frank Bruni book cover.

Jack Kerouac: Collected Poems, published by Library of America, and The Closers by Michael Connelly.

Jack Kerouac: Collected Poems, published by Library of America.


Farewell Summer: A Poem

Here’s a short poem I wrote about the shift of seasons, as we transition from late summer to fall.

Wiki photo by Acidburn24m.

Farewell Summer (Apologies to Bradbury)

The death of summer—
sadness reigns
as the season wanes.
No more soft-serve
ice cream cones,
lakeside walks,
baseball games and
backyard cookouts.
Late August
blues ensue,
giving way to the
birth of autumn.
And you know
what comes next.
Mother Nature
pulls Old Man Winter
down from the attic,
sharpens his dentures
and deprives him of food—
until she’s ready
to set him loose
on the world again.

©2018 Francis DiClemente



Kiddie Party Planning

I recently spotted this scrap of legal pad paper on the ground in the parking lot of a medical complex in Liverpool.

Party planning list.

When I picked it up, I read a list of items needed for a kids’ party. Some of things jotted down included: hot dogs, water, sunscreen, juice box, ice cooler and plastic spoons and forks. There was also a reference to yard games, e.g. potato sack races.

On the flip side of the paper were the following notes: “order sheet pizza, order cup cake cake. Emoji. Approx 15 kids. Adults?”

Party planning list (flip side).

I love stumbling upon these little notes because I feel like I get a glimpse into the person making up the list. Also, I know that if I were planning a party for 15 kids, I would do the exact same thing—make up a detailed “To Do” list. I was curious, however, about the absence of a “bouncy house” on the list.


Blissful Upstate Summer

I spent last week in Rome, New York, as I recovered from Gamma Knife radiation treatment intended to eradicate leftover pituitary tumor cells. And I was once again overcome by the spectacular beauty of summer in my hometown.

Now that we have skipped past the Fourth of July, summer is ripe, bursting open in color, sounds and scents, but soon it will wane. Soon autumn will overtake it.

But now near perfection reigns in central New York with warm days, flowers in full bloom, vegetable gardens producing their bounty and children riding bikes and playing outside. We need rain here so it’s not quite perfect.

As I went for an evening walk heading toward Vogel Park in Rome, sunlight filtered through the lush maple trees lining North George Street, casting a greenish-yellow glow. Along the way I dodged hissing sprinkler streams dancing over burnt lawns and spilling over on the sidewalk. I saw teenage boys playing Frisbee in a front yard. A basketball bounced on a driveway and screen doors smacked against doorjambs. The smells of freshly-cut lawns and grilling meat entered my nose.

I also heard the voices of summer as I walked past the houses.

“Let’s go Randall.”

“All right, I’m coming.”

“Come on Meg, time to eat.”

Summer is such an intense sensual experience words and images alone cannot do it justice. Ray Bradbury came as close as possible with his fictional Green Town.

I think these days of splendor in central New York are God’s way of making amends for all the lake-effect snow days of December, January, February and March when darkness comes at 4 p.m. and the cold air bites your face. But you can’t contain summer. You can’t bottle it up and preserve it like dandelion wine, store it in Mason jars and open it up on a February night when your bones ache and the snow melts inside your boots while you shovel the driveway.

Summer is also a nostalgic time, as we remember our youth spent at the playgrounds and baseball diamonds, doing cartwheels to show off for grandparents, running around the neighborhood with sparklers and chasing the ice cream truck down the street.

I also consider the math when looking at my life. How many more summers do I have left? And then I think only one, right now. That’s it.

While driving with my brother one afternoon last week I spotted a white banner stretching across Black River Boulevard. It announced the Drums Along the Mohawk drum and bugle corps competition would be coming on Aug. 2. “Oh no,” I said to my brother, “that means summer’s ending soon.”

The competition has always been one of the last big events of the summer in Rome, signaling cooler weather, moms checking off their school supply purchase lists and the Rome Free Academy football team practicing in two-a-day sessions. My stepfather also says Drums Along the Mohawk sometimes coincides with bats sneaking into the house and circling the kitchen or family room.

An ice cream truck is parked along Stanwix Street in Rome.

So before summer is gone again, make a point to leave the house, walk around the block and look at the stars, eat your share of ice cream cones, race to finish nine holes of golf in the gloaming, attend a minor league baseball game and go for a night drive in the country to hear the whoosh of the tires against the asphalt.

Summer is indeed fleeting, but we still have half a cup left to enjoy.