Friday, June 21, 2024
From My Front Porch

Expectations of summer have changed


Something has changed in me. An essential, fundamental belief I held for years has morphed into something new. The change was slow yet seemingly relentless. I would have never thought my feelings about such a fundamental and important part of my life could be modified. Yet here I am experiencing the first week of June, and there can be no question that my basic view of the world has changed. Surprisingly, my love of summer has diminished.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not hate summer. It is not my intent to move to Alaska or Alberta, where I can experience mild days and cool nights during summer and then live through the dark cold of winter. I have never been a snow/cold weather person. My confusion is about why my attitude toward summer has changed.

As an elementary school student, I could not wait until the last day of school. My buddies and I would take our shirts off and, with a few exceptions, not put them back on until school started again in the fall. We would swim, play baseball, invent kids’ games like soccey — a combination of soccer and hockey where you could kick, throw, or strike the ball into the goal using your hands, feet, or a hockey stick. If the game sounds chaotic, it was, and that is what made playing soccey in the heat of summer so much fun.

During the summer, my friends and I might start the day off with a game of catch while dissecting the results of the MLB game the night before. Eventually, we would wander to the pool where we would swim, dive, dunk each other, and chance a quick glance at one of the young female lifeguards. After the pool, we might grab a Coke and sit on the stone fence outside the drug store, sipping our drinks and talking about the many things in life we did not understand, or had not yet experienced.

Usually, about an hour before dinner time, we would head home and check in with our moms. The matriarchs of our family had not missed us during the day. They knew where we were and basically what we were doing. Our only obligation was to be home for dinner.

After eating our evening meal, it was back outside for the continuation of the nightly kickball game. This sporting event had been going on for weeks. It started right after dinner and continued until it was too dark to see. The game never ended, it simply went on and on. The joy was to play, not to worry about a final score.

Through all these days’ events, the sun would beat down on us without mercy. We never thought about staying inside because it was “too hot” to play. There were no video games for us to play or movie channels for us to watch, because the technology had not yet been invented. Even if electronic games had been invented, I am not sure they would have interfered with our love of being outside in the sun, basking in the heat.

With each day of summer our tans got darker. We were not troubled with regular applications of sunscreen. Science had yet to explain to mothers that skin exposed to large doses of sun could create skin cancer. In fact, the girls of the neighborhood would coat themselves in baby oil so their skin could get even darker and leathery. The sun was a way of life.

Growing older never changed my love for summer. I would haul hay, work in the oilfield, or work livestock, and it seemed like the sun was always shining brightly. Well into my 50s I would work outside for 10 to 12 hours, and, while I would certainly feel warm, I was never deterred by the heat of summer.

If not at work, I might be at the lake skiing, on the golf course, or working outside in the yard. The sun was like an old friend. It comforted my soul and let me feel as warm on the inside as I did on the outside.

At this point in my life, something has changed. I no longer work outside doing manual labor in the heat. I cannot tell you the last time I had the time or made the effort to spend a day at the lake. I stopped playing golf years ago after an injury to my back, and playing soccey with the neighborhood kids is simply a memory which will not be relived.

Now, I realize for the next 100 days we will be sentenced to the Purgatory of summer heat. Of course, the number of days could be longer, but it is hard to imagine any time before mid-September when the temperature will be down into the 70s and 80s. We will experience a relentless daily grind of excessive heat, no rain, no cool breeze, and no relief from the drudgery of summer. The conversations in offices, cafes, and on the sidewalk will be of a community ready for cooler weather.

I never thought it would happen. But my friend, the summer sun, and I have grown apart. We have fond memories of each other and still have moments of casual connection where we smile at each other and pass a wink or a smile, but we will never have the same intimate relationship we once had. Time changes all things.

Thought for the day: “Keep your face to the sunshine, and you will never see the shadows.” —Helen Keller

Until next time…I will keep ridin’ the storm out!