A few weeks ago, right around the beginning of June, I noticed this social media trend of people welcoming summer. To many, it would seem, the first of June marks the start of the season. My first reaction was, “Hey, what about the summer solstice? Isn’t that the official beginning of summer?” But, upon further reflection, I realized I have my summer signs too, and they’re rarely coordinated with the solstice.
When I was younger, there was no confusion about the start and end of summer. It was clearly demarcated by the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. Ten or so glorious weeks where one day flowed to the next with no distinction between weeks and weekends. No homework, no bus rides, no hall passes to the bathroom.
These days, the signs can arrive in fits and starts rather than all at once. Here’s how I know that summer has arrived:
Who Turned on the Lights?
It’s bedtime, dammit. I know it is! Then why is it so bright in here?
At the height of summer, it’s often light, or at least dusky, until ten o’clock at night. Even as a teenager, my internal clock was never calibrated for the rhythms of a night owl. Somewhere around nine, I’m drawn like a magnet to begin my “shutdown procedures” for the day. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, I’m in bed reading, acutely aware that there’s a whole word of activity still going on. Indeed, I can hear neighbors outside visiting around a fire pit, or dogs barking in protest that fetch will soon end.
In the early 90s, I lived in Alaska. It was a life of extremes – the shortest of short winter days and the longest of long summer ones. At the beginning of each summer, the near endless daylight was invigorating. I wanted to soak it all in, not miss a minute, mistakenly thinking I could somehow make up for the vitamin D deficient winter months. However, by the second or third week of little sleep, I was forced to don a classic Reuben Kincaid sleeping mask to force my biorhythms back on course.
I Become Shirley Temple
Not Shirley Temple Black, mind you – sophisticated, intelligent woman who served as US ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. No, no, not that one. The other one. The little girl with impossibly curly hair and dewy skin who romped around with bobby socks and lollipops as big as her head, singing to sooth the masses.
Okay, it might just be the impossibly curly hair that Shirley and I have in common during summer. I haven’t worn bobby socks in decades – probably around the last time my skin was described as dewy.
Perhaps the better comparison is Gilda Radner’s beloved character Roseanne Roseannadanna. The difference is a couple percentage points of humidity and the availability of weather-appropriate hair products.
My summer-time hair is like an inconsolable child who left her favorite sleepy-time doll at a friend’s house – a friend you aren’t going to see again for about three months. My hair cannot be tamed. Ringlets are like whack-a-moles. Tamp one down on the left, only to have another spring to life on the right.
Let’s just say it’s a season of bad hair days.
Once the shorts, tank tops, and sandals are front and center in the closet, summer has arrived. Unfortunately, this also means seeing a lot more midriffs than is really necessary. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly modest person, but something about summer time wardrobes brings it out in me. I’m often surprised at the shortness of shorts or dresses, particularly when found in the most unlikely of places – churches, doctors’ offices, schools. – and, of course, Walmart. Everyone’s got there ‘You’ll never guess what I saw at Walmart’ story. No place seems to be off limits.
Perhaps it’s just sour grapes on my part since most of those slinky items are no longer age appropriate – or rather body shape appropriate – for me, but I’d sure be pleased if beachwear was kept on the beach and there was still a sense of decorum when we’re out in public.
Of course, there are fun things about summer too. That first time you lay out in the sun each year is utter relaxation. The summer fruits like nectarines and plums seem particularly delicious after not having them for months. Barbecues, outdoor concerts, hiking my favorite trails. It’s a pretty good time, even if I am running around with bad hair and feeling sleep-deprived.
What are your summer signs? Maybe it’s an annual trip to the same place each year, a summer tennis league, or picking strawberries. Would love to hear your thoughts! Wear your sunscreen (and some clothes) and have a great summer.