My mother had an expression that captured the essence of summer: “Nine o’clock on the Fourth of July,” she would say with a smile.

To her, that hour was the apogee, the epitome, the best of this great American holiday weekend. This morning I was walking down toward the beach and Mom’s words reverberated with every step.

I spotted a grey-haired lady swinging slowly on her porch glider, chatting happily on her cell phone. I passed a gentleman putting the top down on his snazzy green Mercedes convertible. Nearing the beach I noticed a group of kids paddle boarding on the cove. “Probably heading over to Strawberry Island,” I thought. 


When I got to Mother’s Beach, cars had already filled every single parking space. Moms and dads were toting picnic baskets, coolers and beach bags overflowing with plastic shovels and pails. Orange and turquoise sun umbrellas dotted the beach, offering shade to pale people sprawled out on blankets. 


Walking along Beach Avenue, I passed joggers, bikers and strollers with napping babies. Blue and white beach towels hung from porch railings, drying in the sun. Patriotic buntings decorated houses. Nearly a dozen red and tan surf boards leaned against the sea wall as wet-suited surfers sat and waited for the tide to turn. I heard squeals of delight (I think!) as kids splashed and raced into the frigid surf. 


Walking back up Oak Street, I heard more signature sounds of summer — the steady drone of a lawnmower, the enchanting lilt of a wind chime, the thwack of a golf ball being hit on Webhannet’s second fairway. Closer to home I heard a wooden screen door slam shut and a neighbor’s American flag flapping atop a pole.

Mom was so right: Nine o’clock on the Fourth of July.  Summer doesn’t get much better than that.