It was 104 degrees yesterday. For those of you unfamiliar with the searing inferno that is a Texas summer, allow me to enlighten you: 104 degrees means you don’t go outside during the day unless absolutely necessary. 104 degrees means if you don’t wait a full five minutes with the AC on full-blast before you touch your seatbelt buckle, you will get branded. 104 degrees means if you have a dog, you walk him before the sun comes up or after it goes down. And 104 degrees means your once refreshing pool has been rendered a useless, lukewarm sinkhole in your backyard.
But despite the fact that summer days have been reduced to whiling away the hours indoors, waiting until it’s a more modest 90 degrees before I go outside, I sill love the summer and there are some truly redeeming characteristics of this hellish time of year.
1) Anyone from the South will tell you that there’s hardly anything more indicative of summertime than a chorus of cicadas (locusts to the rest of the world). I realize these little critters got a pretty bad rap in Exodus, but fewer things are more comforting to a Southerner than falling asleep to a cicada lullaby
2) I’ve already extolled the virtues of watermelons, but hear me out. It’s hot. You’re hot. You’re so hot and miserable that not even water sounds refreshing. Enter the miracle of a chilled watermelon. I know there are seeds (and there better be seeds, none of those wimpy, seedless melons) and that you get sticky watermelon juice all over your hands and chin. It’s so worth it. Which is why there is a bowl of watermelon chunks in my refrigerator from April to August.
3) The smell of freshly cut grass makes my nightly 9 PM dog-walks worth it. They say smell is the strongest of the senses, and I’m inclined to agree with them; one whiff of freshly chopped St. Augustine and I’m 10 years old running barefoot through the neighbor’s yard. If scents had a color, my neighborhood would smell green in the summertime.
4) Nothing says “summer” like firing up the grill and cooking for friends and family (or rather, my dad or boyfriend fire up the grill while I graze on dinner ingredients). Even if you don’t know the people across the street very well, in the summertime you know what they’re having for dinner from the smells wafting in the air. Hot dogs and barbecue chicken have a stong presence in the summer air, although sometimes people get fancy and I can smell a smoker or two from the diaphanous clouds of mesquite smoke they emit.
5) The smell of water. Not the ocean (this is Texas, we’re not exactly known for oceanfront property here), I’m talking about sprinklers and water hoses. Think about it: remember running through the sprinklers and playing with the water hose as a kid? That smell. Not chlorinated pool water, but good old water hose water. Granted, this is an early-morning/late-night smell being that we’re having something of a drought here (you might have heard), but when combined with the freshly-cut-grass smell, well, there’s nothing better. If you can’t remember what it smells like, get yourself outside, turn on the spigot and take a whiff. Smells like summer, doesn’t it?
6) Fireflies. These little guys are kind of disappearing, but when I was little they were everywhere and catching them was the best game around. Now it’s a little too dry for their liking, but every now and then you can spot one flickering around the front yard at dusk. It’s well worth your patience to just wait around for a while.
7) Since we prairie-folk don’t have an ocean handy, we’ve settled for lakes. The lake means a road trip, early mornings on the boat, cold beers (passengers only, of course), sunburns and obnoxiously loud music. We dream of lake weekends and cold beer the way Manhattanites dream of the Hamptons and rare wine.
(Interesting tidbit: There is only one natural lake in Texas, Caddo Lake, and it is partially in Louisiana).
8 ) Long, long days. I remember being put to bed as a kid when it was still light outside, and throwing an epic fit because I could still be playing in a puddle fishing for tadpoles. After having been wrestled into bed, I remember listening to my parents and the neighbors in the front yard until it got dark and I finally fell asleep. Now, long days mean I get to sit on twinkle-light-bedecked patios until after 9:30. Long days are long, summer dress days, days when you feel like letting your hair down, days that melt into night without you hardly noticing.
9) Summertime is lemonade stands. There’s been quite a ruckus about lemonade stands recently, and I’m kind of the opinion that anyone who makes a kid shut down his lemonade stand doesn’t have a soul. (My brother and I had a lemonade stand, and I feel certain that the $15 we made didn’t put anyone out of business). There’s one on about every corner in my neighborhood, and I’ve even started carrying a dollar or two when I run so if I pass a stand I can stop by. I always “accidentally” don’t have any quarters so I can just give them a whole dollar. It’s summer, it’s hotter than all get-out, and they deserve a dollar or two.
10) Fireworks. I realize that the 4th of July has passed, but that doesn’t mean all the fireworks are gone. Quite the contrary. Every couple of nights I’ll hear fireworks, sometimes a big one from a baseball game, but usually it’s the little ones, the Black Cats, that have been carefully hoarded and brought out on slow summer nights for a little added excitement. A few fireworks every now and then never hurt anyone (if they’re careful, anyways).
The things that make summer bearable are the things that make you forget it’s so hot to begin with. Happy summer.