Summers, not winters, are what I best remember about being a kid. Winters were sensible shoes and scratchy sweaters, multiplication tables and trudging to school.

But summer, ah, summer. Three months stretching ahead with no timetable, no schedules. Sleep until 8 if you please, longer if your mother lost track of time.

Throw off those hated shoes and go barefoot all the time. By July, the soles of our feet were as hard as caliche, able to withstand even a noonday walk to the nearest grocery store.

We'd walk like birds on a fence along the faint shadow thrown up by the telephone wire that stretched along the path from my grandmother's house to the store.

A penny or two would buy us a pair of wax lips, a "pack" of candy cigarettes, or a couple of pieces of gum, preferably Fleer's Dubble Bubble, wrapped inside its own tiny wax comic. If we were flush, we'd stroll over to the drugstore for a nickel ice cream cone.

Because our mother worked, we spent much of the summer at my grandmother's house. There, we'd loll away the hours beneath the gaspings and wheezings of her evaporative window cooler - the home's only cooling device.

Its blades were unshielded, leading to our grandmother's vivid warnings of losing our fingers, if not our heads, if we strayed too close. Rarely did we pay much attention.

We lived on fried Spam, fresh tomatoes, mayonnaise sandwiches and lime Kool-Aid, frozen inside ice-cube trays. To freshen our drinks, we'd pluck the mint that grew in the ever-present drip beneath the window cooler.

After lunch, my grandmother would take out her quilts and make what she called pallets on the living room floor, in the vain hope that we might stretch out and take a nap.

Other times, she would fill a bucket with cold water, slop it on the front porch, then sweep off the water, creating a cool if temporary island in the middle of the heat. Then we'd drag her kitchen chairs out to the porch, cover them with blankets and pretend we were in some imaginary cave.

With no video games and precious little television aside from "Visiting with Virginia," we read voraciously, everything from Archie and Jughead comics to the much-anticipated Weekly Reader.

Come nighttime, we'd sit on the edge of my grandmother's walkway and watch the beams from the searchlights sweeping across the sky, heralding yet another grand opening of a television or furniture store along South Sixth Avenue.

In early summer, the boys would amuse themselves by tying a string around some hapless June bug, then swinging it toward whichever girl seemed likely to respond in a satisfactory manner. Tiring of that, we'd then scamper through the sprinklers arcing across what little grass remained in my grandmother's yard.

For two weeks she got some relief, sending us off to vacation Bible school, where we made bird cages out of Popsicle sticks and got "saved" at least every other day.

When the rains finally came, we'd rush to witness the waters sluicing through the deep arroyos, yet to be flattened and tamed with concrete. But my mother's fear of polio kept us from swimming there.

Once dry, the arroyos again became our playground, where we staked out our territory, dug our forts and hoped against hope that summer would never, ever end.

Bonnie Henry's column runs every other Sunday. Contact her at