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Summer With My Cousins by Carstairs

“Sam? It’s Aunt Alicia on the phone. She wants to know if you want to spend the summer with her and Uncle Mart and Chris and Larry at their cabin.”

“Can I?”

“If you want to.”

“YES!!!!” That came out more like a war cry.

Mom laughed. “I think that’s a yes. We’ll see you soon.”

My cousins Chris and Larry were my best friends. Chris was two years older then Larry and I were. That summer, we were 12 and just finishing sixth grade. Every year, they spent the summer at the cabin Uncle Mart had inherited from his parents. Since I lived just out of town, it was lonely without them. My other friends and I didn’t seem to get together the way that these family members did.

And I loved my uncle and aunt as well. Aunt Alicia and Mom were twins. Since Dad and Uncle Mart were only children, this was the only family of this kind I had. They lived in the nearby town, where Uncle Mart and Aunt Alicia taught school. We were a very close nit bunch. Every year, we spent time at the lake in their cabin, but the whole summer? This would certainly be a blast.

The last couple weeks of school couldn’t go by fast enough. Larry and I were in the same class, and we spent lots of time planning what we’d do. Finally, school ended and the next day, we set out for the cabin.

It was only a couple hours away, and we arrived right after lunch. Everyone pitched in and their minivan was unloaded in no time. The cabin was right on the lake, with a private dock. Their canoe was tied to it, but it was also deep enough to swim right there. The fish in the lake were plentiful, too. And the woods all around always provided plenty of new things to explore.

I’d just finished lugging my last bag up to the loft I would share with my cousins when I heard Uncle Mart call out, “Who’s ready for the first swim of the summer?”

My cousins yelled back down, “We are!”

“Me, too,” I shouted as I tore opened a bag to search for my swim trunks.

“Don’t worry about much of anything else,” Chris informed me. “We basically live in our swim trunks all summer up here. I only brought a couple shirts.”

“And just one pair of shoes for me,” add Larry. “We usually run barefoot. Your feet toughen up in no time. Trust me.”

Sounded great to me.

A few minutes later, we came tripping down the stairs to find Uncle Mart on the porch, dressed in his trunks, plugging something into an outlet just inside the door. With a double take, I realized it was a pair of hair clippers. Suddenly, something that had never completely registered before came into clear focus. Every time we’d come up to visit, my cousins and uncle had had buzz cuts. Right now, we looked about the same with brush cuts that could stand to use a trim. Well, except that they were all blonde and I was red headed like my father.

Without slowing down, Chris hopped up on the chair. “I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks,” he said.

“What’s going on? I thought we were swimming?” I was anxious to get into the water.

“Before we go for the first swim of the summer, we get the first buzz cut of the summer. It’s tradition,” Larry explained.

“Trust me, you’ll appreciate it once the weather gets hotter. These cuts are much cooler. Easier to clean when we get dirty,” Chris explained.

“Dry faster too when we’re swimming,” Larry concluded.

By that time, Uncle Mart had plugged the clippers in and placed a plastic guard on them. Then he started in on Chris’s head. He ran the clippers right up the middle without hesitation, mowing off a strip of hair, which quickly grew with pass after pass of the clippers. The hair that was left behind was short. In no time at all, he was done and Chris came over to join me at the railing while Larry took his turn in the chair.

“Here, feel.” Chris leaned his head over. It felt soft, and I certainly couldn’t mess it up. “It’s a #1 guard. We do this every couple of weeks while we’re up here. I wouldn’t have it any other way up here. You really should try it, too.”

Frankly, I hadn’t even considered the possibility. Obviously, their buzzes had not made a super big impression on me over the years.

Larry was finished as quickly as Chris had been. Uncle Mart turned to me. “How about it, Sam? Want to look like your cousins?”

“Come on, do it,” Larry encouraged.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Why not?” I sat down in the chair. What else was I going to do? They both seemed to think it was the way to go, and they should know since they’ve done this their entire lives.

Uncle Mart didn’t waste any time with me either. He plowed right in the front, mowing the hair out of the way. Pass after pass, and my hair was quickly mixing with my cousins on the porch. Soon, Uncle Mart declared me done. I reached up and rubbed my head. It felt just like Chris’s had when I’d felt it. I could see how this would be nice for the hot summer months to come.

I’d barely stood up when Uncle Mart sat down. “Who wants to do me?” My cousins’ hands shot up, but mine was right behind it. I was a little surprised that he didn’t do it himself; it seemed fool proof.

“Let’s let Sam do it this time since it’s a first for him.”

Amidst cries of “Ah, Dad,” I picked up the clippers.

“Just turn them on and go to town,” Uncle Mart instructed. “This is one cut you can’t mess up.”

I did as I was told. The clippers felt awkward in my hand, but they cut through the hair just fine. With each pass, it began to feel more comfortable and natural. I went over everything carefully, not wanting to miss a spot. Once I turned off the clippers, but Larry and Chris pointed out a couple stray hairs, so I turned them back on. Soon, Uncle Mart was done, too.

Just as he stood up, Aunt Alicia came out the door wearing her bathing suit. “There are my guys. Must be summer, you all look like you’ve been run over with a lawn mower.” There was a twinkle in her eye as she said it. “Go jump in the lake, I’ll clean up here.”

We men folk needed no encouragement, but ran down the path toward the dock. Uncle Mart was in the lead, and jumped in with a mighty cannon ball. Chris was next, but Larry and I were right behind. The water quickly washed away the loose hair still on my body and felt wonderful on my head. I came up only to be caught in a water/dunking fight.

A few minutes later, Aunt Alicia was there, untying the canoe. “Who wants to go for a paddle?” The whole group clamored up the dock and piled in the canoe. Uncle Mart paddled us out, but then let each of us take turns trying to guide us. When my turn came, I just kept us going in circles.

I was beginning to get the feel of it when Aunt Alicia suddenly stood up. “I’m feeling dizzy,” she announced as she leaned one way, then the other, grinning from ear to ear. Larry and Chris started giggling like I’d never seen before.

“Here, let me help, dear,” Uncle Mart said as he, too stood. By this point, the canoe was rocking dangerously from one side to the other. Aunt Alicia grabbed her husband and then leaned completely one way, pulling all of us into the lake in the bargain. All of us were laughing as we came to the surface.

We hadn’t paid too much attention to the sky, and were surprised when it started to rain almost as soon as we’d righted the canoe. Uncle Mart and Aunt Alicia got two paddles and rowed us back to the dock quickly since rain often meant thunder and lightning as well. As we raced toward the shelter of the cabin, I knew this would be a wonderful summer.

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