Story and photo by Mis Schaaf

Photo of kids at water's edge

SUMMER -- DO WE ALL THINK back to childhood when summer
comes? I do. And what do we think of? It's odd the big things (lightning storms, overturned boats, fires) retreat and the little things run to the fore: the funny little chipped blue pitcher everyone used all summer long at the lake; it poured badly but no one thought of buying a new one.

Or the butter spreader. I just bought one which I didn't need at all simply because of the descriptive copy (almost as good as mine) which told why it was there for sale.

"My own quirky summer memories, it's either delightful or stupid (your call) that I remember a particular sandwich spreader from my summer sandwich making noon times in a lakefront house on Indian Bay in way up state New York. Our family didn't have the house (nor the spreader). I just got to spend innumerable glorious summers from age 6 to gosh knows what. But being the weird or wonderful guy or whatever guy I am I always thought this spreader was such a classy way to put mayo on (at that time) absurdly squishy white bread. I always wanted one of these damn spreaders and never bought one till now.
"Make your own sandwiches in style with some spreading intelligence. Rosewood handle, brass fittings secure the tang, generous spreader and serrated cutter all comprise this simple tool. My longing's complete et tu?" $2.75.

The instant I read that copy I knew that no copywriter, even me, could have written that convincingly, only the boy who used that butter spreader could.

A little research pays: Yes, Restoration Hardware owner Steve Gordon was the butter spreader boy and still writes all his own copy that's why you buy more than you intended to in his store. Wayne Kerr told me this and will be glad to sell you one of the fat, bendable, dependable darlings.

Little things of summer seem to include puppies and kittens and, if you're lucky, ducks or ducklings sprinkled about. Driving with Gia a few summers ago, sort of a touring vacation around New Mexico, we stopped somewhere for gas and a little girl sitting on the Coca-Cola cooler jumped down and asked if we wanted to see her puppy in back. How hard that silly soft brown thing hit me. As nothing were the mountains we had seen, the Indian pottery and reservations, the missions, the shops the whole joy of summer was held in that dusty, wiggling puppy.

You don't remember the important things of summer who went where, who did what, major decisions they seem all hazed over with the buzzing of bees in a timeless time where your hands are in growing grass or sand and sun makes minutes meaningless. That's what we want in summer: that elastic time that brings daydreams or blessed nothingness in our minds, true summertime.

All the times of our summers run through my mind (and ours were especially good ones with the cottage at Higgins Lake every summer for more than 20 years rafts, canoes, rowboats) and yet the essence of all those summers for me boils down to one small memory: my twin Marc, after Sunday mass at St. Mary's, running ahead of us into the little Roscommon, Mich., drugstore and then running back out, arms waving in incredulity and joy, shouting, "They have strawberry today!"

Strawberry! At birth, it seemed, you were either a chocolate (Marc) or vanilla (me) child and now to be faced with such dazzling indecision: Your staunch old standby or the new summer star, strawberry.

Miv Schaaf, a resident of Big Lagoon, wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 15 years.

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