Sat 14 Jul 2007
Just the word “summer” has such promise to it, doesn’t it?
When I was a kid, there was no better season. Summer meant buying popsicles from the ice cream truck, and swimming in Mary Anne Westervelt’s built-in pool, and staying up late playing Scrabble and Monopoly, and long, long days at Jacksonville Beach, where we played in the surf for hours on end. It meant trips to the lake to stay with my grandmother, who made boiled peanuts and potato salad and fried chicken, and taught us to catch minnows off the dock, using bread dough as bait, and then let us stay up late in the one-room lake house (a shack over the water, really), watching Johnny Carson in the dark from our beds.
Back then, the word summer conjured up a whole world of tastes and smells and sensations.
I don’t remember when summer started to sound like trouble, when it came to represent bugs, oppressive heat, snakes in the garden, MORE BUGS, unpredictable thunderstorms, overgrown weeds, and sweaty sheets and mosquitoes (yes, bugs). When instead of eating watermelon on the screened porch, summer meant trying to find child care arrangements for my three kids who were out of school while I was needing to go to work. It meant extra traffic, overheated kitchens, humidity-wrecked hair, half-dead houseplants always needing water.
But I am hereby taking a stand against giving in to that kind of thinking. I am going to wring every last summery thing I can out of this season, see it the way I used to. This year I am going to pay attention.
Right now, for instance, I am in summer mode, both good and ill. I am sitting on the couch, sunburned from a foolish day spent at the beach yesterday. (I went to Rhode Island and got so carried away talking that I forgot to put on the sunscreen until it was already too late.) It’s nearly midnight, but I’m on summer hours so it still feels much earlier. (Funny how midnight in the wintertime finds you long in bed, buried under layers of blankets, and probably fast asleep for hours.) The June bugs have taken over the house, and every now and then one dive-bombs itself into my hair and has to be liberated. (What DO June bugs want, really?) An ant is walking next to me on the couch. The ceiling fan is whirling around above me, waving the cobwebs around in the corners. (Summer means more cobwebs, too.) Moths are flinging themselves against the screens, and the air outside is filled with the sounds of fireworks and motorcycles dopplering their way out of town. The dog is lying on the wood floor, panting so loudly that he’s drowning out the sound of the ceiling fan.
Yet tonight for supper we had fresh native tomatoes and corn on the cob from our favorite farm stand, potato salad I’d made a few days ago, and fresh sugar snap peas, and we ate out on the screened porch and watched the cardinals and the black-capped chickadees getting ready for night as the sun went down. This morning I ate fresh blueberries that were so sweet each one seemed like a present. Right now my back is tired from weeding the garden earlier today, during which time I was getting buzzed by insects and was afraid a garter snake was going to startle me under the next weed. But none did. I didn’t even get any bites from insects. I sweated out there in the sunshine, and my sunburned skin felt tight. When I look in the mirror now, the face that looks back at me is tanned and brown, and my hair has gotten bleached out, even straw-like, and all that in just a few hours. I can’t stand to wear anything but my khaki shorts and a tank top. I can tell it’s going to be my uniform for the rest of the summer.
But so what?
Tonight I’ll fall asleep to the whirring of the fan and the loud chirping of crickets outside. I’ll sleep just under my cotton sheet, and no doubt in the night, I’ll wake up and turn over to find a cool place in the sheet to put my feet. And tomorrow morning the birds will wake me up at about five, cackling and cawing and calling to each other outside the window, exuberant to find themselves in a whole new day.
It’s summer, after all.