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Memories of Summer
By Ruth White
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2000 Ruth White
All rights reserved.
My parents knew no other place but the southwest Virginia hills where they were raised. I didn't remember Mama, because she died of consumption when I was three and my sister was six. But relatives told us she had been a gentle person who read poetry and the Bible, and sang hymns beautifully.
We affectionately called our daddy Poppy, and many times he related to us what Mama had decided long before we were born.
"Our children will have no common names," she had said to him. "A name should have meaning, and tell other folks something about the person. It should help you find your place in this life, and make you feel like you're worth something."
So when my older sister was born, Mama had said, "We'll call this one Summer, and she'll grow up just a'sparklin' with warmth and laughter, and the world will be a brighter place with her in it."
And when I was born, Mama had said, "We'll call this one Lyric, and she'll be a singer of songs so sweet it'll bring tears to your eyes."
Poppy spent a year watching Mama waste away to nothing before she finally died, and he always said it was the sorriest year of his life, not just because he lost her, but on top of that, his daddy, our Grandpa Compton, died in a mining accident. Poppy told us he hoped and prayed his girls would never have to suffer through a time like that.
Everybody in Glory Bottom knew Grandpa. When the explosion boomed, Grandpa and six other men were trapped in this little bitty space, cut off from the rest of the mine, sealed in tight as a tomb. The foreman, who had been away to the college and knew about such things, calculated how long they could survive in this small area cramped with seven bodies breathing. And what he said was if they were still and didn't exert too much energy, and didn't breathe any more than was necessary, they had maybe an hour to live. So they sat quiet and waited and prayed for deliverance before the hour was up.
Grandpa was the only one wearing a watch, and ever so often he would hold it up to the carbide lamp on his miner's helmet and softly call out the time to the trapped men. The others thought it was peculiar for him to do such a thing, but they didn't mention it, maybe 'cause they were curious to know how much time they had left on this earth. But the most peculiar thing of all was when the rescuers finally got there, Grandpa was the only dead man amongst them. Somebody figured out they had been trapped almost two hours instead of one. Grandpa had called out the wrong time, making the men think they had more time than they did, just so they wouldn't give up hope. But he was wearing the watch, so only he knew the truth!
Poppy had always been a good ole boy, just happy to be a coal miner like his daddy and his daddy's daddy. But he changed after Mama and Grandpa died. Where he usta go out gambling and carousing, and spending his money on liquor, now he stayed home, and took up reading the Bible and going to church with us.
Poppy also had the reputation of being the best guitar picker this side of Nashville. He could play any tune you could hum, and he was always saying that it was his mission in life to give joy, to make people sing and dance and laugh.
So it was just as Mama had predicted — in spite of our loss of her, me and Summer grew up singing and laughing. Poppy was always there like a rock, and we felt safe and loved. Our childhood was happy.
But it was Summer I remember bathing me and kissing away the bumps and bruises. Summer patty-caking and rockabye-babying. Reading to me. Summer packing my lunch and taking me to my first day of school. Leading me by the hand to the outhouse in the morning dew. Holding my forehead when I threw up. Plaiting my hair. Hushing me in Sunday School.
We roamed the hills and creeks, picking daisies and tiger lilies, black-eyed Susans, Indian paintbrushes, and wild pink roses. We slid downhill on golden leaves. We climbed trees and explored caves, and peeped into abandoned mines. But we didn't go in there. They were scary. We dammed up the creek and made swimmin' holes. But best of all, we told each other our secrets and dreams.
Poppy had never owned a car. He didn't even know how to drive, so we walked everywhere we went. If it was too far to walk, there was a bus that went to some places. If we couldn't get there by bus, we had to find somebody with a car to take us. If we couldn't do that, we stayed home. And that's what we did most of the time. Stayed home.
We liked each other and we entertained each other. We read books and played games. We listened to the radio. We made fudge and went to quiltings, to school and church and to the picture show at the county seat. We saw relatives at Thanksgiving and Decoration Day.
Me and Summer learned to cook pretty good. Poppy helped us raise a garden, and we canned things for cold weather. We bought our clothes cheap at the company store or from a mail-order catalog. So we had everything we needed. Then why did we dream about going somewheres else and making more money and having more stuff? It's a mystery. I don't know why, but it was a continuing thread that pulled the years together. Someday we will leave this place. Someday we will have a white house. Someday we will have more money and buy things.
Poppy taught me and Summer to harmonize, and we got real good at it. Everybody said so. Summer's voice was high and clear like a bell, while mine was low and mellow like a clarinet. And people were always asking us to sing for them. We could be going down the road to the store, or coming home from the show, and somebody was liable to step out on their porch and holler, "Come on in here, girls, and sing us a song!" So we did. And they paid us nickels and dimes, sometimes quarters, depending on who it was.
We sang for fun even when we didn't get paid, simply because we loved it. Lots of times we sung places with Poppy — parties and church gatherings mostly. But any place there was an audience, they might ask us to pick and sing. I reckon we were famous in our neck of the woods.
Summer always did have funny ways about her, but I got so used to them, they seemed normal to me. For example, she was scared to death of electricity. Poppy called it a "terror" and he said it started when Summer was a baby and stuck her finger in a live socket. But Summer said she didn't even remember that, and she thought it started when she stepped on an electric cord that was frayed. Both times she was shocked.
But whenever it happened, her fear of electricity kept her from doing some ordinary things. Like pulling the cord to turn on the light in a dark room. Me or Poppy had to do that for her. She wouldn't even turn on the radio. We had to do that for her too, and then adjust the static out of it. We also had a fan that she wouldn't touch. In fact, she would pull her dress tail aside to keep from brushing it when she passed by. But the Frigidaire was something else. She wasn't a bit afraid of it. She said it was because it was cold. So it didn't seem to be electric. She thought of electricity as hot. We had nothing else that was electric, except lights on our Christmas tree once a year.
Another odd thing was Summer's fear of dogs. She would panic and hide whenever she saw one. She always called them wolves. She'd say she heard a wolf barking, or a wolf wanted to bite her, when it was really just a little doggie trying to play.
I liked dogs myself, and one time Poppy got us a puppy, hoping Summer would get over her terror. But she wouldn't have it in the house. She cried and cried until Poppy gave the puppy away to kinfolks. I didn't fault her for that. She couldn't help how she felt.
She had some other peculiarities too, like rocking her body when she was upset, just rocking and moaning. Or shaking her leg. That would drive her teachers nuts, and they would always put her in the back row, so they wouldn't see that leg going to town.
And Summer talked to herself. People would laugh at her when they caught her doing it, especially the other kids. And she would turn real red in the face. She told me secretly that beings appeared to her that nobody else could see, and that's who she was talking to.
I got mad at folks when they laughed at Summer, but as she got older she started whispering to the invisible ones, instead of talking out loud, so others were not as apt to notice. She was always looking up toward the hills, listening and whispering. And I didn't think Summer strange at all, because she was my sister and I had grown up with her whispering to the hills.CHAPTER 2
August 9, 1955, Summer's sixteenth birthday, was a hot day, relieved by a gentle afternoon shower, so that the deep holler where we lived between the mountains lay cool in shadows. It smelled of rain and earth.
We were on the front porch. Summer's friends Jewel and Ethel were there, as well as Anderson Biddle. He was a town boy, and that's why we called him by his whole and complete name. You did that with town folks.
I remember the sky was pink late that evening and Jewel said it meant that somebody was going to die.
"'Course somebody's gonna die," Summer said. "Somebody dies every day!"
I had turned thirteen in March, and I could bake cakes pretty good. I baked one for Summer, and it was white with sixteen yellow candles on it. I remember how Summer's blue eyes sparkled. She looked so pretty that day.
"I wish ... I wish ... I wish for a black horse and a silver saddle!" she said with a giggle, and blew out the candles quick.
"Now it won't come true!" I protested. "You told!"
She slipped a butcher knife into the cake with a soft kerplump! And when she pulled it out, there was icing curled around the sharp edges.
"It won't come true anyways," she said. "That's why I always wish for something I don't really want. Then I won't be disappointed, see?"
We had been dancing to the radio throughout the evening, and me and Summer put our arms around each other and harmonized on a song just the way Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen did it in a movie called White Christmas.
There were never such devoted sisters ...
We had to sit through that movie four times before we got all the words right.
All kinds of weather, we stick together,
The same in the rain and sun.
Two diff'rent faces, but in tight places
We think and we act as one.
That last part was especially true. One time me and Summer even dreamed the same dream. We both woke up the next morning babbling about wearing a red dress, and flying over the river. Another thing we did ever once in a while was to bust out singing the same song at the same time! It was uncanny.
There were more words to "Sisters," and we sang it all.
Our audience laughed and clapped. Summer finished cutting the cake and everybody reached for a piece. Poppy came out and sat in a rocking chair, slightly apart from us, smoking his pipe. I handed him some cake on a saucer.
We had Kool-Aid in jelly glasses, and Anderson Biddle said, "Whoo ... ee!" as he sipped some with his face all screwed up. "It's sour enough to make a pig squeal!"
He was right. It was a bit short on the sugar.
"Here's my present, Summer," I said as I placed it, wrapped in soft white tissue paper, on the table that held the cake and stuff.
"Lyric! You shouldn't a'done that!" she said, but I could tell she was pleased.
It was only Precious Pink nail polish. But Summer acted like it was the crown jewels. She always tried to make me feel good like that.
Anderson Biddle gave her a great big bottle of Evening in Paris, and Ethel and Jewel, her so-called friends, didn't give her anything. When we were quiet again, everybody looked toward Poppy. We were wondering what he had got for his oldest girl on her sixteenth birthday. For a few days now he had been acting like the cat that swallowed the canary.
"I don't have a proper wrapped-up gift, Summer," he said. "Just some good news."
Summer pushed brown hair out of her pretty face with sticky fingers and looked at him.
"But it's my gift to you," Poppy went on, trying not to smile. "I saved it 'specially for your birthday."
"News 'bout what?"
We looked at Poppy, quiet and waiting.
For a moment even the frogs and crickets quit their evening chatter, and listened for the thing Poppy had to say. Jewel and Ethel and Anderson Biddle stopped eating.
"We're finally moving to Michigan."
"No foolin'?" Summer said breathlessly.
"You got the money?" I said.
"Yeah, I managed to squeeze out the last few dollars we need for bus fare. And Henry wrote me last week. He's found us a place to live. It's even got furniture in it."
Now he was smiling outright.
"All the way to Michigan?" I said in a whisper.
"What's in Michigan?" Anderson Biddle said.
Hadn't he heard all the talk about the car industry in Michigan, how it was booming up there, and anybody could get a job? I guess not.
"We're going to Flint, where they make Chevrolets and Buicks," Summer said. "Poppy's friend Henry went up there and got a job bolting on window cranks. He gets paid good money for that. Poppy's gonna work in a factory, and so am I when I'm old enough."
"No, you're not!" Poppy said emphatically. "My girls are going to school and take up typewriting. A girl can get a good job if she can type."
"I don't want a good job," Summer said, emphasizing good like it was a dirty word. "I wanna work in the factory."
"My girls are gonna learn typewriting," Poppy said again, even more emphatically.
Summer shrugged. Anderson Biddle was watching her. He was in love with her. They had met in school, and he drove up Glory Bottom two or three times a week to court her. But even though he was a town boy and got to drive his daddy's car places, Summer didn't like him that way. She just liked the idea of having somebody in love with her.
"So you're going away?" he said pitifully.
"What day are we leaving on?" Summer said to Poppy, ignoring Anderson Biddle.
"Around the second week in September. First I have to send seventeen dollars up front for the apartment Henry found us."
Apartment? That sounded refined. People in movies lived in apartments. I had never been in one.
"Are you coming back?" Anderson Biddle said.
"I hope not!" Summer spat out the words. "I hate this place!"
"Have you ever lived anywheres else?" Jewel said.
"You know I ain't," Summer said.
Anderson Biddle watched her some more. She was wearing a green sleeveless dress that Poppy had bought her at the company store last spring. The full skirt swirled around her prettily as she twirled around a porch post. Some people said me and Summer looked alike, and it made me so proud.
"Then how do you know you hate this place?" Ethel said crankily. "Michigan might be worse! I betcha never thought of that!"
She was acting ugly. Maybe she was mad because we were leaving and she had to stay here.
A car was snaking up the dirt road. We all stopped talking and looked to see who it was. It was the Ratliffs' car, and we reckoned that was Mr. Ratliff driving, but he was so covered up with coal dust it was hard to say for sure.
"I'm sick to death of the coal mines," Poppy said. "And it's the only living to be made in this place!"
"My daddy don't work in the mines!" Anderson Biddle said with contempt. "He owns half of the A&P!"
He had his nose stuck so far up in the air, a good rain woulda drownded him.
"Well, lah-de-dah," Jewel said. "Which half does he own?"
We all howled then, except for Poppy, and he was trying not to smile.
"Maybe he owns the half where that old clabbered milk is!" Ethel squealed with glee.
"Or the back part there where they got that withered lettuce!" Summer cracked.
Anderson Biddle was not amused.
"You can laugh," he said seriously. "But if you'd stay here, Summer, and marry me like I ast you to, it'd be half yours, too, someday."
I was wondering how many halves were in that store. But I bit my tongue and didn't say it, 'cause Anderson Biddle had shut us all up. We waited for a response from Summer. A night owl started up. The fireflies were savoring every moment of their brief glory, just flittin' and glowin' in the summer dusk. We could barely see each other's faces. A cool breeze moved through the holler.
Excerpted from Memories of Summer by Ruth White. Copyright © 2000 Ruth White. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Schizophrenia is a weighty topic, especially for children, but Ruth White handled the subject with great sensitivity. I would highly recommend this book to people who are trying to educate under-12s about mental illness -- with the caveat that the outlook for schizophrenics is better than it was in the 1950s at the time this book was set. Side issues in the book -- homesickness and racial prejudice, for example -- are handled well without sounding artificial or intruding into the story too much.
In 1955, thirteen-year-old Lyric finds her whole life changing when her family moves from the hills of Virginia to a town in Michigan and her older sister Summer begins descending into mental illness.
This is a moving story of a family that has struggled through many of life's trials. The main character, Lyric Compton, has a distinct voice that speaks knowingly and honestly about the ravages of mental illness. Summer, Lyric's older sister, has always had her peculiar ways but at sixteen she is becoming increasingly delusional and detached from life. The book will appeal to middle and high school readers because of the length of the book, only 135 pages, the plain spoken dialogue and a plot that doesn't get mired in despair.
I think it must be pretty good, i bet if you liked this one you will like the Giver by lois
This story is Lyrical like the given name of the main character.
I gtgtb. Cya!
Is this yhe summer camp?
Disrespect me, i'm pathetic. Leave me alone.. *She sang some of No More English by Miku Hatsune. At the moment, she unpacked her messenger bag.*
Hiya im back
I have been going through the same thing as Lyric. My sister is thr same as Summer. This book helped me, but hurt me too. It predicted my sisters not so happy ending. I suppose i needed to accept that i can't bring her back. My sister is turning eighteen in 2 months and going down-hill rapidly. Thank you Ruth White for giving me the acceptance I for so long needed.
The book was outstanding! I read one page and after that i couldn't put it down! There were some challenging words but it did not distract me from how great it was! This is a must read for historical fiction!
It was an emotional ride of mental and heart-felt love in this book because it is hard what Summer did and I never wanted to put the book down.
This book is full of feeling.I really felt sorry for Summer as she had to suffer.The family went threw so many hard times. I could'nt put it down it was so intrusting.
this book was sooo good. I read it a couple a years ago. It's the kind of book that when it ends, you keep thinking about it. This is a book i will always remeber, and when someone says, 'whats a good book you've read' i think, 'memories of summer'!
Ruth white has always been a favorite author of mine and when I saw this book I just had to buy it. I could never put the book down. This was the most enjoyable book I have ever read. This book is about a girl who is schizophrenic and her sister and the obstacles they go through. Summer (the schizophrenic) started out just like everyone else but soon it gets worse and something happens that will change both the girls lives forever.
¿They¿re saying Summer thinks things are after her. And she¿s got delusions and hallucinations,¿ Poppy told me. ¿She thinks she sees the dead. She¿s gone mental and that¿s all there is to it.¿ Summer and her smaller sister Lyric lived in a small Virginia town called, Glory Bottom, everything was fine until Poppy announced that they were going to move to Flint, Michigan. Once arrived the girl¿s excitement for living in Michigan disappeared. A couple of month later Summer started coming home with a weird attitude, she thought things were after her and had to go to the hospital for an injury. Summer was out of the hospital after 3 days, the doctors informed Poppy that Summer had mental illness. Poppy thought of bringing Summer to the asylum so that she might get better, but Poppy still didn¿t know. Do you want to know if Summer goes to the asylum? Then start reading Memories of Summer by: Ruth White to find out. I really enjoyed reading this book, although when I started reading it, it was kind of boring, there was no action, but after a few chapters the action started to shine!! I would recommend this book for kids ages 8-12.During the book I figured out that the genre was historical fiction because of the setting. I would say that this book made you want to read on because it would give you a problem and to figure it out you would have to read on. This book was terrific and I encourage others to read it!!
Memories of Summer Laurel Leaf Books, 2000, 135pp., $5.99 Ruth White ISBN 0-440-22921-9 ¿¿¿¿¿Have you ever moved to another city in a totally different area with a mental sister? This is what Lyric, a thirteen-year-old girl, her sister, and her poppy had to do in a book called Memories of Summer. I think this is a good book because it made you look at the people that move a lot and how they feel about not making that many close friends. At the same time a girl named Lyric has to keep her mental sister under control. One of the things that stuck out in this novel was the style of writing. The author gave a very descriptive way of writing that you could visualize what is happening at every moment. Also, the people were so realistic that I felt like I was talking to my best friend. This quote is when Anderson Biddle was drinking his Kool-Aid in a jelly glass, ¿It¿s sour enough to make a pig squeal!¿ This was a good book to read on your spare time. People probably think this is a little girl book just because of the cover but it¿s not. It teaches you to be a good person to mentally retarded people. If you are looking for a short quick story to read this, is it. So how would you feel if you had a mental sister to care for all day? Matt Guglielmetti, Grade 8 Willowcreek Middle School, Portage, Indiana
Memories of Summer RuthWhite Laurel-Leaf Books, 2000, 135 pp., $5.99 ISBN 0-440-22921-9 ¿¿¿¿¿ I found the book to be a bit depressing. It followed the relationship of two sisters and how mental illness changed their lives. At the end, I realized life goes on no matter how devastating a situation can be. The book was different from others I have read in the past. It is common to read about death/ dying, lessons learned by children, love, divorce, etc., but this author took the challenge of discussing mental illness. Mental illness is not something discussed often or portrayed in a way that you become involved with the effect it has on a family. The characters were people I feel I could associate with. I could even see how they would look and their expressions. Summer and Lyric were sisters, and best friends. They would sing and dance together. They both were dealing with the death of their mother, at the beginning of the story. Their father was a gentle, caring man who was doing his best during a hard luck time to take care of his family the best that he could. Early on in the book a few clues were laid out. Summer was afraid of electricity, wolves, and the dark. As the book progressed, Summer did other things. She would talk to herself; try to hurt herself, and others. Through all of this Lyric watched and took care of Summer. Although Lyric loved her sister she was also ashamed. She found it difficult to talk about her sister in front of her friends. Lyric worried if her friends came over and saw Summer, they would never come back. Summer¿s condition grew worse, and the tough decision of placing her in mental care, was made. The book does a great job in having the reader feel the torment that the family went through in committing Summer, a daughter, a sister, a friend. The book enlightened me about schizophrenia with its paranoia and self-danger. The family touched me in a way a book has never done before. The end left me searching for a happy ending for Summer; but that wasn¿t to happen with mental illness, although for Lyric and her father, life goes on Brittany Buzea, Grade 8 Willowcreek Middle School, Portage, Indiana
This novel explores many lessons such as respect for others, kindness, friendship, an family. It's a story that gets right to your heart! I definately recommend this book!
i loved this book it made me sad but hey if u haven't read this book get it and hurry.