The Summer of '77
Updated: Mar 10
A SHORT, YOUNG ADULT, NONFICTION NARRATIVE
The summer of ‘77 I stayed with my grandmother and great grandmother north of Boston. Those days were filled with cool ocean breezes, tall swaying tree branches, rustling green leaves, and loud crows. The smell of fresh cut grass filling the air when my great grandma would mow using the lawnmower that she called her baby would wake me up on Mondays. She was a machine, my great grandma. I guess that’s what happens when you work thirteen hours a day in the sewing mill at thirteen years old. During the nights that summer we’d leave the windows open because the air was a right 65-75 degrees most of the time. No ac needed. And a full refrigerator and my grandma’s cooking was some kinda wonderful after being with a fulltime working mom and wolfing fast food most dinners.
The best part of that summer was that my pal, Luanne lived just two houses away. I had known her since I was four years old and hanging out with her whenever I visited grandma’s house was always pure magic. We were pen pals because I didn’t live there permanently. We had been sending letters by U.S. mail ever since we had learned to write. Anyhoo, as my old pal used to say, that summer Luanne had her first boyfriend and her first break up. And I had my celebrity crush on Sylvester Stallone, which I was more than passionately pleased to share with her.
“Have you seen Rocky?”
“Oh, man, we gotta go see it.”
“Have you seen it?”
“Five times,” I said. “And when I go with you, it’ll be six.”
We saw the movie two times together. Just enough so we could recite most of the lines from the movie. “Yo, Adrian!” Luanne would yell.
My hand up in front of me, rubbing my thumb and forefinger together I’d pantomime Rocky feeding his turtles and speak in the manliest voice I could muster, “Here you go. Here you go.”
“Cut me, Mick.” Luanne would put on her manly voice too and then she’d wince as if in pain, like she had been beaten to a pulp in a boxing ring.
“You’re gonna eat lightning,” I’d repeat for the umpteenth time. Full of anticipation, I'd look to my friend and she’d finish the line.
“And crap thunder.” Then we’d laugh from the belly and plot some new scheme.
On Saturdays, we’d go to 4 o’clock Mass and on Sunday’s Grandma’s boyfriend Larry would take us on outings to amusement parks, sometimes to New Hampshire. Luanne and I would fuss over which Rocky T-shirt we should sport with our boxer shorts.
“Man, I need to get in shape.”
“Me too, let’s start jogging every morning.”
“Yah, alright, but you have to eat raw egg.”
Alarm clocks were set for 5am and for weeks we’d meet in the quiet of the morning on the blacktop in between our houses on the hill to run with the dawn. Sometimes her dad would be awake early with coffee in hand and would cheer us on from the porch.
“Did you drink your raw eggs? I had two this morning.”
“Oh man, I could only get one down.”
“Yah it’s nasty, but you gotta do it.”
At first we could barely make it jogging to the local restaurant. Then as the weeks went by, we managed to make it cross the town line. Running by the green lawns of a golf course, winded, our lungs burning, we’d throw our fists in the air and jump before turning around to walk it back.
“I wrote Sly another letter.”
“What’d you say?”
I just told him I loved his movie and that me and my friend were going jogging every day and how many times we saw the movie and how I wished I could stay at my grandma’s forever so I could hang out with you all year.
“Aw, man, that would be so cool if you could stay.”
“Yah, but I'd miss my mom though.”
Afternoons were spent cutting pictures of Sly Stallone from Tiger Beat and Teen Beat magazines. Even my great grandma, who wouldn’t learn to read until two years later at 78 years old, could read the word Rocky in the newspaper and would offer up any clippings to our scrap book that she could find. Bill Conti’s album was often spinning on our turn table. And Luanne and I would snap our fingers and belt out “Take You Back”, one of the songs from the movie soundtrack. I remember calling her up on my grandma’s old rotary phone.
“I can play the Rocky theme on my trumpet now. You gotta come over and hear it.”
“Cool, I’ll be right down. I’ll show you my new Rocky poster.”
Forty plus years later in 2020 I texted Luanne a lot of Rocky GIF’s: Rocky Balboa running Butkus, Rocky’s one-handed push-ups, Rocky’s bruised face in the 15th round, Rocky hitting the speedbag, and Rocky’s fists in the air on the museum stairs in Philly. Luanne would text me back loads of Lmao’s, Lol’s, and emojis. And for a few minutes we’d forget she was sick. On Christmas Day she passed away. And yesterday when I heard the trumpets playing the Rocky theme song on my Alexa, I could see us running and her fists in the air as we jogged to a stop and I could hear her joining me for a couple of verses of "Take you Back". I figure she’s flying now. ☮