A version of this story may be found in Exploding Hushpuppies - More Stories from Home.
There was a time when we all loved Southern summers. They weren’t so hot or humid, they weren’t miserable at all. But what was once our favorite time of year has turned into the season of complaints.
If you stop and stare at a rain puddle in the yard long enough, you can almost remember what your feet felt like when you’d splash in the mud after a rainstorm. You can recall riding bikes and eating popsicles on days when the heat never bothered us. The cold movie theatre would show Batman and Pete’s Dragon for free and we’d drink cherry Slushies till our tongues were frozen and made us talk funny.
We’d catch lightning bugs and small toads for entertainment better than any video game. Our parents would take us to family reunions where we’d eat chicken and dumplings and deviled eggs and try to poke our fingers into 15 different cakes.
We’d spend a week with our grandparents and were allowed to play in the creek, pick corn and throw watermelon rinds to the cows. No one worried about us riding in the back of pick-up trucks and the wind would blow through our sticky hair while we laughed and sang with our cousins.
Vacation Bible School was the only time in the summer we had to wake up early. We’d come home with cheeks stained with purple Kool-Aid and our fingers sticky from gluing popsicle sticks to a milk carton. Our hearts were full of songs about Jesus and we never once mentioned the temperature outside.
But now we say it’s hotter than new love and there’s no way we can even walk to the mailbox. We buy our tomatoes from the farmer’s market because we can’t possibly make a garden ourselves in this heat. We tell our children to stay inside and watch movies or play video games because obviously the heat is too much for them. They need to be driven to friend’s houses because a bike ride on a day like today would certainly kill them.
But sometimes, around the end of July, we’ll hear a song on the radio and it reminds us of a day at the beach with sandwiches and icy bottles of Cokes. For a split second, we recall being in love with Southern summers. A breeze blowing against our face reminds us of singing into a rotary fan to make robot voices and the chime of our seatbelt makes us look over our shoulder for the ice cream truck.
Maybe it’s not the heat we hate, but instead, it’s the lack of carefree days that drives us crazy. When childhood days were sweltering, we’d run through a sprinkler. Now, we have to climb in the hot car with scalding seats and go to work.
Our homemade ice cream freezers have been replaced with Insta-Pots and our Slip ‘N Slides have been traded for phones loaded with mindless games. It’s not the heat or humidity. It’s not the frizzy hair or crowds at the beach. What makes us dread summers now is that we’ve forgotten how to enjoy them. Southern summers were made for playing. They were given to us as a little treat for enduring the rest of the serious year. Summertime was created for children and those who are still young at heart.
This story first appeared on AL.com