Fling Open Summer's Door

When a friend told me about the dream home she built along Lake Michigan in the northwest region of the state, she shared details about her landscaping, interior design, etc. — but the one thing that really stirred me was her desire for a screen door.

It reminded her of childhood summers — carefree, cottage days when she would race through a wood-framed screen door with beach towel in hand, on her way to a day of adventure. She also loved the door because it allowed her to hear nearby shorebirds, chirpping crickets, and lapping waves. That door is my friend’s entryway to summers past.

I love screen doors, too, which is one of the reasons why a Mackinac Island home charmed me last summer. Ken Hayward, who runs the Grand Hotel, invited me to tour the home where he and his family live. After climbing the wide front steps up to the 1888 home’s welcoming porch, I was met with the prettiest of screen doors, decked with a fresh coat of minty green paint and an old-fashioned door handle.

I could imagine excited children in the late 1800s whizzing in and out of the door to watch boats pass through the straits, and I could almost hear a mother somewhere in the background telling them not to slam the door. They’d undoubtedly hear the clip-clop of passing horses, their sounds carried on the straits-area breezes.  

Whether it’s a door, an open window, or a perfectly placed bench in the garden, each can help us tune in to the happy whispers of  summers past.

There’s no defining the feeling you get when something floods your senses and transports you to contented moments of  yesterday. Shoe designer Stuart Weitzman once said: “You let the things you grew up with go sometimes. If you’re lucky enough, something in life triggers you grabbing on to them again.” In his case, it was reintroducing himself to the joys of ping-pong, a game he loved as child and then came back to, on a whim, decades later. Now his office has a ping-pong/conference table — a  reminder of cherished times.

The lilac — one of the most sensory delights of late spring and early summer — is one of my “reminders.” As it paints Michigan an astounding lavender, white, and purple come spring and early summer, I am 8 years old again. I see my mother driving our car down a country road and I hear her say, “Look at those lilacs! Beautiful!” And then I watch her pull off to the side, walk through tall grasses, and pick a bouquet for that evening’s dinner table. One look at lilacs and I’m a carefree kid with a fun-loving mom, waiting for her to return with her fresh amethyst jewels.

Lilacs, screen doors, crickets, waves lapping the shore … whatever your summer memories, “grab on to them again.” With that, I think I’ll have to plant some lilacs, or at least look into wallpaper with a lilac motif.


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