Summer Then

How is it that in my 76th year, I continue to look forward to the first day of summer just as I did when I was a child? Back then, I couldn’t contain the anticipated happiness and feeling of freedom that came in the package that was summer.  

School was out! My family made our annual summer trip to the North Shore of Long Island, New York and our summer-long vacation in a country town called Miller Place. Such wonderful memories – days at the beach, swimming, exploring, climbing trees, picking raspberries.

A Book From Summer Memories 

When I was teaching, I often told some of these memories as stories to my second graders and eventually wrote my first book, Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort. 



Summer Now

I now live in Tucson Arizona where conversations about heat hold increasingly more importance as summer arrives. 

“Our thermometer read 101° yesterday.”  

“My phone app says get ready for 103° high tomorrow.”

It’s a weird Can you top this? kind of vibe. Today on June 27 our high will be 105° by 2:00 PM. Too hot to go out. Walkers get up and out earlier and earlier to “beat the heat.” Dogs do that stiff-legged stance and rebel when the front door is opened for a walk and heat swoops in. Outside or A/C inside? It’s a no-brainer.

Sharing Memories Builds Connections

I believe that sharing good memories makes them stronger. Storytelling events are on the rise along with the temps. I’m sure my happy endorphins are boosted with each telling of a sweet memory. And so, some time between May 21 and the first day of summer I take my book off the shelf, curl up on the comfy chair, reread Thinking of Miller Place, and want to share it again. 

A Happy Surprise

I recently got a happy surprise from a woman on the East Coast – 2500 miles away. I knew her over 50 years ago. Not as a childhood schoolmate or college friend. She was one of my first students when I taught kindergarten at Washington School in West Caldwell, New Jersey. Now our similar memories connect us again. 

I am so pleased to share some excerpts she wrote: 

 I thoroughly enjoyed your memoir of Miller Place! … You helped conjured up memories of family camping trips and time spent at our summer homes on Martha’s Vineyard. We had so much fun making new friends, and being left to our own devices. 

Your description of the car ride to Miller Place was so similar to our treks to The Vineyard. Our station wagon was filled to the gills with luggage, household items, a half dozen children and a pair of Airedale Terriers. 

I particularly enjoyed reading about your interpersonal relationships with family (especially your Finn), friends and the community. It’s interesting the way we perceive ourselves and others, and how our perceptions continually evolve through education and life experiences. 

Thank you again! I and so many others are fortunate to have had you as our first school teacher! 

Carol Ann Cielecki

“This reminds me of…” is one of the most valued compliments I can receive about my writing. Storytelling IS a wonderful connector. Thank you, Carol Ann, for this connection and your permission to share some excerpts. I can’t deny how pleased I am that our first personal connection is now strengthened by this one.

Do you have a childhood “Miller Place”? Tell me about it.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days, in Tucson Arizona, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.