We filled the lounge chairs of my parents’ backyard with our friends, scraping the metal legs against the concrete to avoid the splashes escaping the pool. Notes were passed through many hands, but I can’t remember what they said. We played Sardines and Ghosts in the Graveyard, later than we should have, because Indiana summer isn’t dark until after nine o’clock. I climbed in and out of different cars, and back in again: the vintage purple Corvette that always got attention at a stoplight; the Jeep missing second gear, in which I learned to drive a stick, late one night, around and around my neighborhood; the beat-up Toyota that always felt the safest—until it didn’t. I hated the way wet grass felt in my toes, but I was always barefoot anyway. Some mornings, I can still feel the yellow light of late July, the way it looked on a particular day especially.
A wellspring of nostalgia waits in this season. The older I grow, the thicker it feels. How languid and boring those adolescent summers felt then, but looking behind me they are memories of freedom and possibility.
I think about the liquid associations with the summertime—the diving, the floating, the treading and splashing, sweating, dashing through the rain at the sight of lightning.
It’s the same sense of humidity, when summer floods my being and my memory. I want to dive into it and splash around; but it’s a slow, thick substance to work through, to keep my head up above, and there are dangers in its distant skies.
There was a sticky oppressiveness to the summers of my youth—but how differently I feel that now. As a child, I wore it on my skin, into late nights watching out my bedroom window for the day’s last fireflies and glimpses of my future. Then my heart was light like screeching laughter and the wind whipping my hair around the truck cab.
In these mountains of my adulthood, the literal and metaphorical peaks and valleys, even the summer air is crisp and thin. My skin warms to the sun’s scorch, thawing. The summer weight instead swims into my head and fogs my brain. What is real and what is clouded with summer’s familiar wetness?
I have slowly grown up into the summer, written odes about my newfound adoration for its heat and light. I was born into the heart of it, nearly 35 years ago now; but I have taken my time accepting this bond—a bride given into an arranged marriage, who eventually finds herself in the best possible match.
Now I remember everything differently, how surely I must have known from the very beginning, what a special time it was and is.