Summer, Autumn, Winter (“Winnie”) and Spring are friends of my sons. Two are adorable, one is a tart, and the other will be a beauty someday — as soon as she grows into her teeth, bless her heart. With absolutely no connection to these young ladies whatsoever, and thinking only of the calendar, I have to say Summer is my absolute favorite.
The Southern summer air really does feel thicker, which slows us down a bit more than usual, and if your son is (un)fortunate enough to make the All-Star play-offs, you’ll sit through the longest, hottest baseball games of your life watching the ball seemingly hang in mid-air while you question if it was really possible you shivered beneath sweaters at the start of the season.
I’ve been North to Michigan and Massachusetts during the summer and have to admit they have a few good things going on. I’ve never seen such cute, tiny mosquitoes — smaller than your hand, and I think everyone is required to carry a preppy little sweater because they’ve somehow arranged for the temperatures to magically drop once the sun sets. I was unprepared for this phenomenon and had to rush to the tourist shop to purchase a sweatshirt — in August, of all things.
For some reason, even though the North has cooler summers, insects that don’t carry off small children and plenty of opportunities to wear cute sweaters, the Northern summers just don’t appeal to me. Something isn’t quite right. There’s nothing technically wrong with Northern summers, but like others, I tend to be drawn to what I’m familiar with and the things I already know best. Even if what we know is poison ivy, nuclear hot car seats and squeaky ceiling fans — it’s familiar, and therefore, it’s what we love.
We know how to get a smooth tan at the Gulf while snickering at the white-legged tourists who call the water the “ocean” and we know how to slice watermelons into perfect wedges on newspapers spread on the picnic table in the backyard.
Southern ladies know how to twist our hair up and pin it just the right way to keep it off our necks while leaving a few little strands to curl up in the heat, just to drive the men crazy. We know the secret of keeping our perfume in the refrigerator to give us a little extra chill down our spines before we go out for the evening.
Southern children know if they pick bouquets of Queen Anne’s Lace and wild honeysuckle, their mothers will give them a hug and a cookie, then grandly arrange the weeds only a mother could love in granny’s silver vase. The smart children also know to watch for snakes when picking berries and to avoid rolling around in the tall grass for fear of a million chiggers coming home with them on their backsides.
Southern men know how to make a party out of boarding up the house for a hurricane. They know to always carry extra water bottles on the boat, put fake rubber snakes in the fig trees and to wear seersucker for ultimate comfort in church.
We know to tilt the shutters “just so” in the mornings to let in the cheery light, but we also know exactly when to run around the house slamming them shut to keep the scorching afternoon rays from straining our air conditioners and bleaching out the rugs.
We know that a supper of homegrown corn, tomatoes, okra and zucchini is the best meal in the world when it’s served with a buttery wedge of cornbread, and that anyone who rushes through a meal like this without lingering around the table to scoop up the last bite of peach cobbler, isn’t to be trusted.
While my son’s friend Summer is cute as a bug in a rug, our real Southern summers are brutal. For all the scratching, sunburnt, stormy, sweaty stings, we still love summer in the South. Familiarity is comforting, and these days, we need all the comfort we can get. Because that’s the summer we know and love.
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