I dream of summer while I lay under five quilts in bed, while coasting past the dry, abandoned stalks in harvested corn fields, or while I fight cracked skin with thick lotions. I conjure up images of days when thick heat causes drivers caught in traffic to overuse their horns, when I can graze my lips with my tongue and taste the salt from the ocean, and when charcoal clouds crowd overhead, contrasting the intense tones of the earth.
When I was still young enough to acceptably wear neon shades of eye shadow and have an assigned seat at lunch, my cousin Kelagn and I carpooled to school. My mom would pull our red Explorer into Kel’s driveway, and she would eagerly jump into the backseat. Whoever could name the number of days left in the school year first would win our daily contest. While the ritual was a sort of game, it was more so a tribute to our beloved season, a countdown to the magic that came with June, July, and August. The number began in the triple digits and would narrow itself down as the mornings grew lighter and more than the scentless winter wind, biting and bitter, filled our noses.
It began as painting rocks on the picnic table in the backyard and letting my mom or dad swing me to the sky and over the creek. Then, it was tag with the lightning bugs and the neighbor boys on cool nights, scuffed knees I was proud of, and Snicker bars from the pool that ended up painting my fingers a chalky brown. As a teenager, summer was fluffer nutters and odd concoctions of ice cream with the girls far too late at night, racing four wheelers, and chasing after the boys who gave us a second glance. Now, it is a current of fleeting images and feelings. Screaming at a concert with my eyes closed. Fireworks from a lawn chair. The way light falls on an early fishing morning. A smiling waitress at Waffle House. Peach juice on my dress and all over my face. The spicy smells and unique customs of other countries.
Although it is an evolutionary experience, the themes remain constant. Summer is a constant gold thought in the cold. It exemplifies freedom. Everyday is brimming with opportunity. It is a time for family (vacations, cookouts, reunions). Its beauty and happenings prompt contemplation, powerful emotions, and an appreciation for this earth.
In ten or more years, I will diligently cross off dates on the calendar with my children and show them the peace gained by watching a full moon illuminate a path through the churning waves or the simple joy obtained in letting their hair tangle in a windy car roaring with loud music. Because I believe that summer is a gift to be embraced.