Childhood summers shaped my vision of heaven

Lorraine Murray is the author of three cozy Christian mysteries available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

When some people envision heaven, they picture a place, usually somewhere lush and languid. But for me, heaven is a season of freedom, imagination and joy — and my first taste of it was summer vacation when I was a child. I was an A student, but I still despised certain aspects of school, especially physical education, since I was a total failure at it and constantly provided fodder for the other kids’ amusement.

I can still see myself galloping at breakneck speed across the field in the general direction of a large hurdle that students were expected to leap over. The closer I got, the more hesitant I became — and at the last minute, I stopped dead in my tracks.

When it came to forward rolls in tumbling, I failed miserably by flipping onto my side, much to the delight of my classmates who erupted into derisive hoots of laughter. My gym teacher urged me to try again, but my body stubbornly refused to comply.

I had more success with swimming, but when it came to diving, the best I could do was a resoundingly loud belly flop.

Little wonder that when summer rolled around, I savored the months of freedom from the bondage of gym class with all the joy of a puppy sprung from a leash.

Summer meant spending long days at the pool, where, with my sister and friends, I could pretend to be a dolphin, a turtle or even a shark, and no one could accuse me of doing it wrong.

On weekends, the whole family migrated to the beach, where my mother, attired in her blue swimsuit with the pleated skirt, bobbed blissfully in the sea with her girls, while my father — in baggy trunks and Panama hat — sat on the shore, smoking a cigar and keeping a lookout for sharks.

My sister and I also would go on treasure hunts in the backyard of our Miami home, where mango, grapefruit, orange and coconut trees abounded. We knew the hidden treasure was imaginary, but that didn’t matter because our mother drew us a fairly intricate map and packed real lunches for us.

In seconds, we metamorphosed from human beings into horses as we galloped around the yard jubilantly, until hunger drove us to find a shady spot where we devoured our peanut butter sandwiches and carefully plotted our next move.

In the afternoons, we cooled off by turning on the sprinklers, donning bathing suits and dashing through the blissfully cold streams of water until we heard the distant ring of the ice cream truck, which prompted us to rush into the house and beg for money.

If I make it to heaven, I hope it will be summertime forever. I hope I can gallop across some field pretending to be a horse with no one criticizing me for doing it wrong. I hope I can spend a never-ending afternoon with my mother in her familiar skirted suit and my dad in his Panama hat.

And I pray there will be peanut butter sandwiches, ice cream treats from a truck and, most of all, the discovery of the treasure that was hidden for so long.