The Days of Wineberries and Roses


‘Listening to the Warm: sensational summery sounds’

Forget Rod McKuen. It was Henry James who nailed summer. He once famously said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon’. Go on; say them out loud. Better yet, murmur them.

‘Summer af-ter-noon‘. Mmmmmmmmm. You can practically feel that hammock swaying.

Now you’ve already heard me go on about the tastes of summer — I’ve waxed ravenously poetic about such seasonal delights as watermelon and corn and berries-somebody-else-picks and glorified rice and even (yum!) Jello Cake.

But I haven’t talked much about summer sounds. You know the ones I mean; sounds that really say summer. Fireworks. The ice-cream truck. And, for me anyway, that fwap fwap fwap sound that happens when you clip playing cards onto your bike spokes with clothespins and ride home from the Carlyle Municipal Pool gnawing on a frozen Milky Way.

Oh, and let us not forget the metallic drip/clang of the window air conditioner or the whine of the mosquito (followed by the inevitable ‘damn!’/slap). So summery.

Just this week I noticed that the cicadas have cranked up.  That cicada chirp (I guess you’d call it a ‘chirp’; if in doubt, you can listen to it here) is one heck of a powerful memory jolt:

See? Just like one of Proust’s madeleines. Only louder.

Speaking of powerful memory jolts, my Middle Younger Brother Roger posted a movie last week that took me waaaay back. To a summer some 20 years ago. When I watched it, I was transported back to a time when The Child was just a tyke. And it wasn’t just her little-girl looks. It was that voice. I had honestly forgotten how much she — and her cousin Nat too — sounded like baby ducks. Cartoon baby ducks. Here. Go on and take a listen. It’s a really short clip. They talk (er, squeak) a bit about moles (the rodent kind) before they get to the wineberries.

The non-baby-duck, non-helium-breathing voice you heard was, of course, Middle Younger Brother Roger (Uncle Rog, to them).

Now, wineberries. They don’t make any noise themselves, but they do stimulate some pretty appreciative mmmmm-ing. They taste rather like raspberries, but not exactly. You may never have heard of them, because, like many lovely things — ripe tomatoes, vinho verde, The Dude — they don’t travel well. (Yes, I mention The Dude. Who likes to be in other places, just hates the getting there parts.)

According to Wiki: ‘an invasive species…the non-native wineberry displaces native plants and alters habitat structure’ Well. La-di-da, la-di-da. We think they’re lovely. And delicious

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you can’t buy them that makes wineberries so special. Whatever it is, around here they sure are. The Dude was on the phone to The Child just yesterday and mentioned that ‘the wineberries are getting ripe’. Which means I may need to make a ferry run soon.

Well. I seem to have strayed a bit from my ‘summer sounds’ theme. Here I am, talking about taste again. So sue me. Before I leave you to go hunt down some wineberries before The Dude’s sister comes and scarfs them all, here is another berry blast from the past:

The Child helps make her Whitmore Grampa's last summer on Earth a berry nice one indeed

The Child helps make her Whitmore Grampa’s last summer on Earth a berry nice one indeed

Now gather some berries, gobble some corn, maybe whip up a Jello Cake. Whatever you do, enjoy the rest of your July. The next summery sound you’ll hear will be me — rapturously slurping a ripe August tomato.

Amagansett, New York. July 2016


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44 thoughts on “The Days of Wineberries and Roses

  1. josypheen

    Now I want to taste wineberries! I wonder if people used to make wine with them!?

    For summer sounds, if I think of England, it the sound of lawn mowers(!) In Japan, its the cicada and frogs!

    • I wonder, too, about wine and wineberries (!) Now you’ve got me pondering clouds and cloudberries! Enjoy your summer and your summer sounds, dear Josy, wherever you might be xoxo

  2. Great piece. I certainly picked up your love of summer in it. I’ve never heard of wineberries, though or jello cake for that matter. 🙂 I think I’ll use wineberries in one of my stories, though. They sound fabulous! 🙂

  3. Ok. Where have I been? I’ve never heard of wine berries or jello cake before. Is this a regional thing? I love the little mole hunters, their voices are so cute!

    • Totally a ‘regional thing’! I’d never heard of wineberries till I moved to the Northeast. Jello cake? I grew up with jello cake. It’s delish! And yes, those little mole hunters were so cute (sigh!)

  4. angelanoelauthor

    I played the video and my son came rushing over to listen to the children’s voices as they pointed out the mole hole (though they’ve never seen a mole). The distinct and beautiful sounds of children’s voices in the summer, full of discovery and bold commitments (“I can reach up there!”) make me nostalgic for when I didn’t see summer as just another season, but as THE PERFECT SEASON.
    I’m not kidding, and I’m not trying to flatter you, but you should know, I truly smile all the way through each and every one of your posts.

    • It takes a lot to render me speechless, Angela. But your lovely comment did just that. I’m glad to have been able to evoke some summer memories for you, and the fact that your son was curious about those then-little girls (they are both 26 now) warmed my little Midwestern heart. Fingers crossed I can continue to bring a smile to your face xoxo

  5. Wildberries and fond memories all on a social Saturday, I am pleased to feel your words and hear the sounds of summer. But wineberries do you mean grapes I half hope you do and half not.

    • Yup. Those berries are almost ripe. Yesterday I got a taste of some wild blueberries beside the path to the beach. Yum! thank you for reading — and for commenting. Isn’t #weekendblogshare the best?

  6. mamasick

    Summer is my favorite season, even though it can be beastly hot! My favorite sound is my son laughing as he slides down the water slide on the first day the pool opens. My favorite taste is watermelon and my favorite sights are only the sights you see during the summer; the county fairs and festivals, the drive-in movies and watching the kids playing in the lake!

    • Thank you for your comment, and for reminding me about the happy sounds of happy children playing in water. It’s been 20 years, but I still can hear The Child giggling as we jumped over the little waves we called ‘tsumommies’

  7. Alice, The video of Child and Nat is lovely. It must have taken your breath away when you watched after all these years. Amazing, isn’t it?

    Sounds of summer? You hit on some keystones. Here’s another – the baseball game on the radio. When I was a kid, you could hear it from cars, gas stations, garages, the 7-11s and other small shops. “What’s the score?”

    • Oh yes, Bruce. You nailed it about the video taking my breath away. One of my brothers posted it a couple of weeks ago, in honor of Nat’s 25th (gasp!) b’day. I wanted to do something with it, but was too kerflempt to do so right away. Oh — before I forget: thank you for not only reading and commenting, but for reminding me about baseball on the radio. We used to listen to Harry Carey on a transistor radio perched on the picnic table in the back yard. Which is where we sunbathed, slathered in baby oil.

      • Well, of course. Baby oil in the hot midwestern sun. Isn’t that why J&J sold the stuff? Teenage girls with gobs of baby oil laying in the afternoon sun. (Sounds so dangerous now.)

        Harry Carey? Really? He was with the Cardinals when I was in grade school. I could find St. Louis station on my transistor radio late at night, but the signal came and went. My symphony was from Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau, who called the Cubs games. Eventually, Harry Carey moved north to call the White Sox games. Of course, in the end, the Cubs fans seem to have claimed him as their own.

        As for the video? Well, you’re a strong person to play it all these years later.

        • Yup. That was me, courting skin cancer on the picnic table. But it was SUCH fun. Oh, and yes. Harry Carey was broadcasting for the Cardinals back then. (So was Jack Buck) I grew up in Southern Illinois. Which was Cardinal Country. Except for my Mom and the guy who owned the IGA, who were the town’s only Cubs fans. xoxo

  8. I loved that you reminded us to listen, Alice. Although we have a different type of summer here (they can be hell, actually), the birds are still ready to sing before daybreak. You know what I loved about the little girls? Their sweet, sweaty, uncombed little heads.

    • Ah! Yes, the smells of summer. So glad you reminded me of them, Judy! Like the smell of Coppertone. Gin-and-tonic. Even the mosquito-spraying truck (we used to follow it on our bikes; it’s a wonder we’re still alive today). And yes, the smell of sweaty little girls, heads and all. Thank you. xoxox

  9. Oh my goodness! Where to start? What a beautiful daughter you have. I love the picture of her with her grandpa. The voices on the video were so cute and I love the sound of the cicadas. My summer sounds would be the silence of a hot summers day out in the fields. It’s a certain kind of silence. Oh and the sound of laughter and water as my son loves to splash and stay cool. Thank you for joining the #weekendblogshare

    • And where to start with my thank-you? I don’t often write nostalgic posts like this one. It’s easier for me to ‘go for’ humor.
      So it’s even more gratifying than usual to get a thoughtful comment like yours. Thank you thank you thank you. Enjoy your summer, with all its satisfying sounds (I do know what you mean about a ‘certain kind of silence’), including the splashy happy sounds of your son playing! See you around the #weekendblogshare (!)

  10. Love your musings, Alice. This one conjures up so many fond summery memories. Jack, Charlie, Chrissie, Janey, and I “sleeping” (sleep? yeah, right – heehee) outside under the stars plotting our next bout of mischievous fun.

    • Ah yes. Aren’t cousins the best!? I remember not doing a lot of sleeping too. Thanks, as always. You should come on out. I might just save you some wineberries!

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