Summer Days Gone By

Photo by Nathan Barteau / Unsplash

Well, I’m back in the saddle, except for the occasional dry cough.

Not being able to focus while reading was one of the most challenging aspects of COVID for me. I’m usually a slow reader anyway but this was ridiculous. I found myself reading the same page over and over. No reflection on the writing, by any means. It was my foggy brain.

But I couldn’t have been “stuck” on a better book: “All New People” by Anne Lamott (1989). This short novel is set between the hillsides and shorelines of Tiburon, California, where I lived during the same formative years (and in the same era) as the protagonist, Nanny Goodman. Ms. Lamott is one of my favorite authors but to have her call out vivid details from my childhood was such an unexpected treat! From Old St. Hilary’s Church (in the photo above), to the old railroad terminus ferry slip where I used to fish, to “the smells of eucalyptus and the sea”, I found myself putting the book down to let my mind wander back to the days when I’d go cardboard sliding down the hillside over the dry flaxen grasses of late summer. She even mentions the Safeway at the bottom of the hill—the same store where I’d feed nickels into gumball machines so little prizes encapsulated in their plastic bubbles would drop out.

Remember the candy and popcorn counter at Sears? Like one of the characters in this story, my mother would take us to the Sears on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco to shop for school clothes, stopping at the counter on the way out for a small bag of chocolate-covered “bridge mix” for us to enjoy on the ride home.

Back to that railroad ferry pier for just a moment. By the time we moved to Tiburon in the mid-sixties, the pier pilings were beginning to rot. The last NWP train left that ferry terminus in 1967 and chain link fencing was erected to prevent access to the unstable section of the pier. I guess I should say it was erected in an effort to prevent access. Determined kids with fishing poles will always find a way in.

Note to Anne Lamott: I know there’s not a snowball’s chance you’ll see this post but just in case we have a subterranean deep freeze, thank you so much for the look back!

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