Over the Hill…

  Miller BEach Dunes 038

The usual meaning of the phrase “over the hill” is in reference to a person’s having passed his or her prime. It is an expression of at least mild derision with an overtone of dismissal after one has reached life’s zenith of success and productivity. However, the words have a much different and more personal significance to me. They take me back to the first twelve years of my life and the times my family and I paid visits to my mother’s favorite cousin, Jean Moore.

Miller Beach

It was always summer when Dad, Mom, my younger siblings David and Connie, and I would pack our swimwear and beach towels, heading for Miller Beach in Northern Indiana’s Lake County. Jean, her husband Clyde, their children Jim, Judy and Mike, along with Clyde’s father Sam, lived on Lake Michigan in a cedar shingled house that was only steps away from a huge sand dune separating them from the beach and lake on the other side. We kids, with our parents, would scale the dune like intrepid explorers on those warm summer days, sliding back two steps for every three we attempted, carrying picnic baskets, a cooler of iced tea, our colorful beach towels and blankets and beach balls up to the crest of the hill where the air changed suddenly to a breezy coolness, even on the hottest days.

Miller Beach with umbrellas

The fragrance of the water and sand was so invigorating during our easier trek down the other side of the dune to the beautiful white sand ,where our parents would spread out beach blankets with umbrellas, while we kids would head straight for the lake and inch our way into the clear water from icebergs melted eons before even our parents were born. It was the most wonderful part of what summer provided, besides the three-month parole from Warren G. Harding Elementary School.

Miller Beach at night

When evening came, we always built a fire on the beach, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows while watching the sun disappear over what we kids imagined was the distant Illinois border, shadows and light flickering across our faces as the flames crackled, scenting the air with wood smoke. The climb up the hill again was the finale to our time outdoors as we saw lights of surrounding houses. Then we kids would play Monopoly or Old Maid at Jean and Clyde’s house, drinking Kool-Aid and eating popcorn while the adults droned on about politics, sports, and fashion.

beach sunset

So the term “over the hill” summons for me those sensory recollections of a lovely part of childhood, and the make-believe mountain that, after a climb, would take us over the top into a kind of paradise, where cool breezes and shimmering water gave us a summer idyll that would remain among the happiest memories of being so young.   JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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