This Monday marks Memorial Day here in the United States. While the day itself is meant to be a somber one (as it commemorates our war dead), this particular day also represents a turning point in our cultural calendar: the unofficial start to summer (the actual summer solstice takes place about 3 weeks or so later). Many schools end their academic year right about now (some a few weeks earlier, others a few weeks later), the Sun’s rays seem to arrive with greater intensity as our Hemisphere leans closer and closer towards the Sun as our Earth orbits, and especially for Florida, the thunderstorms start to clap and flash and soak us at greater frequency. It all sounds lovely, but…it’s my least favorite season.
Seriously?! A Florida-born woman who doesn’t like summer?! Heresy! Sacrilege! Traitor!!!!
Yep, I said it. I don’t care much for summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when the blue sky is out with nary a cloud in the sky, but…the heat. The burning, blistering, so-hot-you-could-fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement, don’t you dare walk barefoot on the street or you’ll get blisters, time to get out your Blue blockers on to keep the Sun out of your eyes heat! We regularly experience temperatures of at least 90° F here during the summer. If you want to take a walk here, you better bring lots of water. Shade can come at a premium around here, but it feels oh so good when you manage to find some. And don’t get me started on the humidity. Oh yeah, it’s usually not a dry heat around here. The humidity around here is so ubiquitous this time of year, that it seems like sometimes you need to cut through the mugginess with a machete.
So…what do I like about summer? Well…
The beaches and the swimming pools begin to fill with people looking to escape the heat. It’s been years since I’ve been to a beach, but I can still recall the briny aroma that comes off of the ocean, and the din of the waves crashing onto each other and onto the sand. I can recall the memories of minnows swimming around in the shallows as the water beckons them towards the open sea. I can see myself, swimsuit-clad, just sitting in the shallows, allowing the water to splash over my legs. I know I’m not a very strong swimmer…I dare not even think of going out too deep into the water. I watch the seagulls swooping in and out of the sand and waves. But that scent…I can never get enough of the smell of seawater.
Inland, the trees are resplendent in beautiful shades of green. The bugs fly around trying to dive-bomb by my ears, as if they know how much the sound of their wings beating against the hot, humid air annoys me to the core. Gnats attempt to infiltrate my eyelashes as I sit in the shade, knitting, and my dog enjoys her sunbath. I see her sprawled out on a sunny patch of grass, her nose in the air looking for a scent and her tongue ever-so-slightly hanging out of her mouth…not so much out of heat, but out of sheer happiness. (Believe me, when she’s hot, her ears warm up and her tongue is hanging way out of her mouth like it’s trying to escape it.). She turns to get the other side of her body warm, as I continue to knit. The mockingbirds are out in full force, chasing anything and everything that dares to come near their nests: crows, buzzards, even squirrels. (I can vouch for that: I saw two mockingbirds chasing a squirrel through a tree across the street from me this morning.). The cardinals, dressed in feathers of red, continue to make their tweets loud and clear…I’m sure their songs are longer than 140 characters. 😉 But what I really notice is the buzzing of the cicadas from the tops of the numerous pine trees that call my part of Florida home. The buzzes migrate from tree to tree, in a sort of call-and-response echo that I can hear all around me. First from one tree off in the distance behind me, then they come closer and closer to me, until the closest tree to me is singing with cicadas in one loud buzz. When these cicadas die and fall off the trees, the appearance of one’s corpse is kinda uneasy on me, due to their sheer size. They make the beetles that like to crawl near my front door on these summer nights look tiny.
But my favorite part of summer, the one thing that gets me through these long days, is baseball. I get excited for the games that come on during those summer days. I scour the TV guide in the hopes I’ll be able to watch a favorite team of mine play. More often than not, I usually end up watching the Boston Red Sox, a team whose 86-year-long curse was the stuff of legends (of course, rivaled only by the 108-year curse that the Chicago Cubs finally broke last year). My mother’s family had their roots in New England, and this part of the country holds a very special place in my and my family’s hearts. Though the Red Sox are no longer the underdogs they once were, they still have me as a part of their dedicated Red Sox Nation, and they are the only American League I regularly root for (or support, if you’re Australian, as I hear that “root” means something very different in Australian English). In the National League, I cheer on both the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs because of the connection they have to my dad. When he was just 9 years old, my dad and his family moved from Indiana to Florida, and back in those days the only baseball team you could watch or listen to in Florida was the Braves. He still waxes poetic about guys like Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, and later on the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, and the Central Florida native Chipper Jones. The Chicago Cubs, though, were my Granny’s team. She was a fan of the North Siders for as long as I could remember, until the day she died. She died only four years before they finally broke their curse. I am a fourth-generation Cubs fan: in addition to my grandmother, her dad (my great-grandfather) and my dad have also been supporters. And it wasn’t just them, either. My dad has cousins who are Cubs fans, and where they come from in Northwest Indiana, many of the people there are Cubs fans. But enough on fandom.
What I love about baseball is so much more than balls and strikes, hits and runs, batting averages and on-base percentages. It’s about camaraderie, between fans or between teammates. It’s about the moments of drama in a close game, wondering if this pitch will be the pitch, the one that could turn a game around for my team. It’s about memorable moments, whether it’s David Ortíz launching a game-tying grand slam into the Boston bullpen in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS or Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo recording the final out of the 2016 World Series or Clayton Kershaw throwing a no-hitter. It’s about rising and falling with the tide of a game, and keeping your hands clenched together in hope or prayer until the final out is recorded or a team walks it off. I don’t get much emotional adrenaline rushes in other sports. These things help me get through the summer.
I don’t know what this summer will have in store, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Perhaps I will learn to like this summer better than previous summers, perhaps not. I’d hate to be a seer who knows everything in the future…knowing everything would probably drive me mad. I much prefer life’s element of surprise.
May your summer be a good one.