We love summer, don’t we? In about May, people start asking each other about summer plans. We launch our annual bathing suit diet (and yes, I typed that with a straight face...) Breweries begin advertising their fruity summer offerings. Baseball standings grace the paper’s front page. Our neighborhood pools become the daily hangout.
Dinners just naturally get served later, as the day light extends. Supper at 8:00? Sure, why not? The Europeans do it, we think. Let’s eat on the patio! Fireworks tents pop up everywhere, and the neighborhood bombers build up their stash. Self-tanners replace winter dry skin potions on drugstore shelves.
Convertible owners make their annual attempt to make the rest of us peasants jealous, as they roll those tops down, don cute, sporty hats, and play their music just loud enough at stop lights to makes us take a second glance.
Large family reunions start giving t-shirt printers all the business they need, as the Jones, and the Smiths, and the Roberts families gather generations together to lie and swap stories and mourn those who are gone. Rock salt disappears off store shelves to be used in the slushy ice mix on the outside of a hand cranked ice cream maker, and I don’t mind telling you how sorry I feel for those of you who never got to have my Nanny’s burnt sugar ice cream straight from her White Mountain freezer.
Even musical artists get in on the action, right? Every generation has a song or two that make them think of summer. While Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” might not have been your jam, I can still sing most of the lyrics. Maybe the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” makes you think of the ocean. They wish they all could be California girls? What about us Missouri chicks with Iodine and baby oil farmer’s tans?
Or if you are old school, can’t you just imagine George Gershwin penning “Summertime” on the fire escape of his stylish New York apartment in the stifling heat, thinking he better write another song to pay for that stylish New York apartment? Old George had us thinking about easy summer living and catfish practically jumping from the water onto our line.
I truly am a sucker for the sights and sounds of summer. You can find my nose jammed into a bottle of Coppertone’s original suntan lotion, the stuff we wore before we knew we were supposed to block the sun, inhaling the scent of that tropical concoction.
I am pretty sure fresh peaches is what Heaven will smell like, and I don’t even have the words to describe the smell of a rain shower on a summer day except to say I just love it—earthy, damp, promising. I even like the powdery yet medicinal smell of the calamine lotion we used as kids to cover the tops of the mosquito bites we had scratched open.
And the sounds that accompany summer are pretty good, too. Early morning lawnmowers and weed whackers that bother some folks don’t disrupt my sleep at all. The thwunk of a paper hitting the driveway reminds me of fair-haired boys I once crushed on, making a little bit of money on their paper routes.
Kids with grass stuck all over their bare legs, shrieking in the sprinklers, with their pffft pffft pffft pffft noise. Concerts of crickets and cicadas as the sun sets. For those of us of an age, the scratchy sound of a drive in movie coming through a rusty speaker attached to a car door is a great summer memory.
Maybe for you it is the hiss of a well-seasoned steak hitting the glowing grill or the neighbor’s wind chimes, which irritate you during all the other seasons, but during the summer seem just about right. And the hssssst a pop top makes when somebody reaches into a cold cooler and opens a soda can is something we all know.
A creamy orange push pop or a dipped cone costs a lot more than it used to, but it is the perfect treat through lots of generations, and kids love the tinkly, tinny sound of the ice cream truck music as it rumbles through the neighborhood, like a siren’s call hearkening sailors.
When you are a mom or a spouse, the sounds of summer might take on a little different twist. At my house this year, those sounds have just about put me over the edge, and the typical daily playlist rings a little more domestic.
It starts with a slamming screen door, because who would want to gently close it as you go out to the deck to have your coffee, when if you let it slam it might wake up everybody in the house?
Maybe it is the squeak the cabinet makes when someone opens it to get our ANOTHER glass which they will eventually leave on a table somewhere to make another dewy water ring. The breaking of the seal on the refrigerator door as it opens to the food- seeker, one who stands looking for just the right FIRST snack of the day, is never pleasant to a mom’s ears.
This summer, I have heard the air conditioner constantly laboring, as a certain 15 year old decides she is hot from “lurching” around the neighborhood, and lowers the temp to cool down. But I can just barely hear the air conditioner over the television left running in another room since early morning.
At my house, the background music is always a running washing machine, chugging its way through yet another load of the clothes my family has worn for four minutes and then discarded in the hamper, nestled right next to the damp towel they used for the third shower that day; or maybe its companion the dishwasher, running another half-full load so no one has to fill a sink with hot soapy water for the good old hand washed look.
One of my least favorite soundtracks is the groan that comes when I wake my teen before noon, followed by the loud protest that it is still early. It just barely beats out the rushed requests at the window of the car as I head out to the grocery to please buy more ice cream, frozen lemonade, and grapes. If you read that with a whine, you are right on track.
Driving to work today, I hit on a radio station running a marathon of summer songs: “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”, possibly one the longest but most fun song titles ever; “Under the Boardwalk”, which somehow seems more ominous to me now; and “Summer Lovin’” from Grease, filled with all its innuendo. By the time “Summer Breeze”, a song from my era came on, I was singing along, oblivious to the less exciting soundtrack playing at home.
Happy summer, ya’ll. I hope today you eat a piece of fresh fruit, catch of whiff of chlorine from the pool, or think of an old summer love. I know I will!
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.