Wednesday, September 4, 2013


What with all my moaning and groaning about summer -- six months lamented every year, like clockwork, I know; I'd be apologetic if I had any energy remaining to dredge up anything remotely resembling sincerity but alas -- it may come as quite unexpected that I haven't always begrudged summer its very existence. It begs questions, not the least of which being, why on earth would I choose to live in this state of endless summer at all? (The other six months, friends. Truly.) Summer in Florida is not for the faint of heart -- though it may cause you to *feel* faint of heart, as the temperatures soar and the humidity levels keep pace. You haven't lived (or questioned yourself for choosing to live in it), until you see a temperature of 92 degrees with a matching humidity reading. I choose to contain myself in a climate-controlled bubble for as much of  June, July, August, and September as I can reasonably get away with, and my venturing forth during May and October is rather limited, though not to the point of actual hibernation.

My whining and I digress.

I was saying, I haven't always sighed heavily at the approach of summer, back when summer was about ten weeks long, stem to stern, and carried the promise of no school and zero responsibilities. The days stretched out before me, long and lazy, in the best possible ways. They were filled with blue sky and shady trees and fireflies and garden-to-table veggies. We didn't have air conditioning, but for those five really oppressive days in early August, we could endure with a couple of oscillating fans and copious amounts of lemonade in glasses that dripped round rings of condensation on the picnic table. The mornings brought dewy grass, perfect for bare feet. The evenings left windows open to the serenade of crickets. And afternoons scared up the occasional thunderstorm, rumbling in its approach and leaving a cooler reprieve in its wake.

The worst torment of summer was the wasteland of boredom (foolish child!), wondering what school friends were doing. Surely something far more entertaining than I. (I recall listening to tales of family vacations to Florida with some amount of jealousy. Irony, yes?) (Also, why did those parents hate their children? Who vacations in Florida during the *summer*??) Church was sparsely populated. All the other social activities revolved around the school year -- everything from coffee hour to Sunday school, babies to hold in nursery to "special" music during the services -- and summer was quiet, outside of the crackle of ladies fanning themselves with their bulletins and the un-muted whoosh of traffic noises on West Street on the other side of the opened stained glass windows, in the hopes of procuring a breath of a breeze for which to thank God. The days were uneventful and meandering, filled to the brim with nothing in particular.

Despite the sticky bare legs on the church pew and the longing for peer interaction, the hiatus of summer was crammed with abundance. Gram made such summer-only delicacies as "bacon and lettuce" (Gramp's favorite salad for lunch -- he would pack away plates of it, light and fresh, after working the land all morning long) and tomato salad, which was little more than slices of juicy garden tomatoes topped with a few slivers of onion (I'd pluck those off the top and leave them on the serving dish, something I have outgrown) and some thinly sliced crunchy bell pepper, all swimming in her own homemade vinaigrette (with bacon bits! I was enthralled by the bacon bits), mixed in the little plastic measuring cup with a long handled spoon. (That measuring cup had discolored with age and use, and its handle was cracked, but I believe Gram kept right on using it just the same, never replacing it.)

The summer days of my childhood were good. Memories ripe for picking, just as I picked ripe blueberries by the handfuls back then. I miss that, the not loathing of the summer. I've been seeking some silver lining to the relentless Florida summers I have chosen to inflict upon myself, but not finding any success. I like silver linings. I like to find that snip of positive, that whisper of something about which to find myself smiling with a little joy. Thanks to a high school classmate, I think I've finally named it:

The sunsets born of the heat and humidity are something to behold, the sinking sun warming the daily storm clouds still settled along the horizon after they've rained themselves out. I doubt I will ever embrace it (or give up muttering about the one-hundred-percent humidity pressing down on me yet somehow not raining), but with beauty like this, I could allow myself giving in to frequent reminders of a way to come to terms with my nemesis, the summer.

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