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Summers in Sombra
There’s a new book in the family and I love it dearly. My big brother Dave has written a heartfelt and healing memoir that begins with our early childhood together and carries him into the present day. From Darkness to Light is filled with discoveries and insights, sorrows and triumphs. Dave decided not to “die with his music still in him” by waking up the writing gift he had long suppressed. Here’s a summer memory from our childhood that I hope you will enjoy as much as I have:
“While living in foster care in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, Wayne and I didn’t get to see Mother or our older brother Jim very often—certainly not often enough. One reason was that Mother didn’t drive and had no way of getting to us. The separation of our family tore at her heart. Mother worked at Chrysler, earning the typical female wage for whatever job she was doing. In those days, men made almost double the wages paid to females for the same job. My mother’s greatest wish was to somehow reunite her family again. With this in mind, she finally decided to marry Bill Drury, a fellow she’d been dating for a couple of years.
Bill’s mother Cora owned a cottage in Sombra, Ontario. I remember all of us going there in the summer of 1948. For Wayne and me, it was as if we were visiting some kind of Fantasy Island. We’d swim, fish, play baseball, listen to ballgames on the radio, and even learn to play pinochle.
Jim and Wayne seemed able to swim right away, but it didn’t come easy for me. Although I enjoyed just being in the water, swimming wasn’t one of my favorite sports or pastimes. It did bother me that my little brother Wayne, who was a year and a half younger than me, could swim circles around me. He, of course, would never brag or say anything to make me feel bad.
A half a mile down the road from the cottage was the river access where we swam. If we dove off the dock, the water was deep and over our heads. If we swam straight out about fifty feet, we’d reach the sand bar where the water was only waist high. Jim and Wayne would dive in, and within seconds, they’d be standing on the sand bar. There was no
way I could swim fifty feet, so I’d dive in and get out right away. So much for swimming!
Other summer memories include watching the magnificent fireworks display on the Fourth of July, cutting the grass with a push mower, and playing baseball. Wayne and I played catch whenever we could. We’d even watch the local Sombra baseball team practice and run the bases for them. Jim met a girl named Ethyl that summer, so he was always preoccupied with her. Wayne and I were inseparable.
One afternoon, Wayne and I discovered a nearby gas station run by a guy named Bill. Whenever the Tigers games aired on the radio, we’d head over to the gas station and listen to the game. We pretty much had free rein that summer. Mother, Bill, Cora, and Bill’s cousin Margaret seemed to play pinochle at the cottage day and night.”
Excerpted from From Darkness to Light by David L. Dyer. Copyright ©2012 (Balboa Press).