While I prefer the green of spring, autumn’s sense of passing time, and the sweater-bundling of winter, there is still something about summertime. It takes me back to childhood, when summer meant a long stretch of fun and freedom and discovery.
A special book captures this summertime feeling, and years ago, I read it every summer, just to get in the mood. Recently I revisited it, wondering if a childhood favorite still held its charm. I needn’t have doubted–not when the writer is Ray Bradbury, a man known for the childish wonder he carried through into his old age. With Dandelion Wine, he proved summertime magic has no age-limit.
It was this paperback I first read way back then, under the spell of its mystical cover.
To celebrate summer and my rediscovery of this favorite book, below is my Goodreads review.
“Douglas sprawled back on the dry porch planks, completely contented and reassured by these voices, which would speak on through eternity, flow in a stream of murmurings over his body, over his closed eyelids, into his drowsy ears, for all time.”
Where do we get our sensibilities? It’s more complicated than nature/nurture. There must be layers of influences that combine with our proclivities and create our unique spirit.
Who would I have become if, when I was somewhere around the age of the main character of this story, my beloved brother had not snatched this book off the library shelf and handed it to me? Would I have had a deep, lifelong need to smell every rose in the bouquet, both literally and figuratively? Some books help to make us who we are, and I believe Ray Bradbury conspired with my brother and together they gave me this book to help make me who I am. When you’re young, you notice things: the way clouds move across the sky, the way the earth smells when you lay on the grass, the way grownups act that tells you things they don’t say. After a while, most of us stop noticing. But this book is a reminder.
It’s the story of 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding and his adventures during the summer of 1928. It’s full of nostalgic glimpses of days gone by. But it’s so much more. He experiences life and death and fear and loneliness. As the summer progresses, we learn along with Doug some of life’s most important lessons.
We begin to understand what Lena Auffmann finally got across to her husband Leo about the happiness machine Doug and his friends encouraged him to build. Look around. You don’t have to go back in time. You don’t have to travel to exotic places. It’s all here. Right now. If we just stop and appreciate it. It’s here for all of us.
Bradbury shows us how to look, see, appreciate and savor.
Right now there’s a slight scent of roses coming through my window on the breeze, I hear my husband hammering away on something in the garage, and feel my dog’s soft warm head resting on my slippered foot. Sometimes, heaven is right here if we only notice it. I learned that from this book.
And, as Douglas often says, “another thing I learned …” When you are young, a summer can be packed with so many, many things: life and loss and adventures and magic. There is no reason all of our summers, all of our seasons, no matter our age, can’t be packed and memorable like this, if we just pay attention.
When my time comes, I want to be able to think like Doug’s Great Grandma.
“I said it all in my time and my pride. I’ve tasted every victual and danced every dance; now there’s one last tart I haven’t bit on, one tune I haven’t whistled. But I’m not afraid. I’m truly curious. Death won’t get a crumb by my mouth I won’t keep and savor.”
Is this my favorite book? I put it to this test: I asked myself, “If I had to pick one book to memorize, as the characters do at the end of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, would it be this one?” The more I thought about it, the more I knew. “Yes, oh yes! And I’ll begin right now.”
“It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow …”