The Long Spell

Brian Baughan
2 min readJun 6, 2019

What’s a song that conjures up your childhood? For me, it’s “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen. It transports me to summer ’85, poolside at Sevakeen.

Sevakeen is a small, northeastern Ohio resort outside a small city, Salem. Our family used to spend three-week stretches there at our cottage. It was all very wholesome — imagine a midwestern variant of the Kellerman Resort in Dirty Dancing.

In an eight-year-old’s world, Sevakeen provided everything, as it did for my older brothers. Basketball, golf, paddleboats, and an artificial lake graced with a small beach and a series of baby-blue wooden platforms, set at various heights, from which to flip and cannonball. The top attraction, by far, was the Big Waterslide. I’d climb twenty-some hair-raising steps up the ladder to the top and manually crank water through a hand pump to slick up the chute. That was for optimal speed.

Directly across the pool from the slide stood a tiny food stand for getting push pops or hot dogs or whatever. In an open window of that stand was a modest radio — the delivery device for my memory-bomb. It also played other Born in the U.S.A. hits enjoying heavy rotation that summer.

I’m not concerned here with the artistic merits of “I’m on Fire.” It’s well-covered terrain, and anyway, as you might guess, eight-year-old me wasn’t hip to the lyrics, definitely not their sense of frustration and longing: “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull / Cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull.”

What I can say is the song, as played in an acoustic environment only we Sevakeeners know, cast a profound spell. The lake was a natural amphitheater, amplifying the melody far and wide. Each time “I’m on Fire” played, whatever my location — at the top of the slide, on the beach, on the basketball court up the hill — the song reached me.

It’s like the spare guitar, dreamy synth, and Bruce’s long, plaintive wails all were specially designed for a certain effect — though not an immediate one, because it took some time for the elements of memory and melody to commingle and settle. But it’s a strong concoction now, over three decades later.

There’s no duplicating the actual moment. It’s gone, and that’s fine. I’m still under the spell. When I think about Sevakeen, I hear the song; when I hear the song, I think about Sevakeen. It’s the perfect memory.

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