Summer in the (Little) City

I don’t like summer. There. I said it. I keep trying to like it. After all, who doesn’t like summer? I’ve had better luck learning to like November.

The reasons are obvious. I wilt in the heat, and fully melt in humidity. I could happily do without anything over 82 degrees. I spent most of our unbearable July in a state of panic over global warming and the increasing electric bill. I don’t like sunscreen or bug spray. I really don’t like bugs. My old house, with the damp basement, smells musty. We have a neighborhood skunk who likes to make her presence known on a regular basis.

While I see plenty of bugs and varmints, I rarely see anyone I actually like. Everyone disappears. I’ll go weeks without seeing favorite people who I usually see a few times a week in non-summer. I can walk through Northampton on a Saturday night and not see anyone I know—it’s like the usual denizens have all been replaced by people from Connecticut.

Each year, the ever-changing schedule of summer nearly breaks me. Not unlike a toddler, I like a consistent schedule and the academic year accommodates me nicely. Summer means camps that change every few weeks, with new morning prep, new carpools, and wildly varying schedules. And then there are the weeks with no camp, but we won’t speak of that.

I might enjoy doing many summer things—music festivals, historic sites, parades, amusement parks—if it weren’t for the aforementioned heat. Scratch that. I don’t like amusement parks in any weather.

And don’t get me started on everyone’s Facebook posts from places I’d like to be. By mid-August I begin contemplating blocking half my friends.

I feel extensive summer guilt about all the things I’m not doing. I’m not taking jaunts to the shore, or even a nearby pond. Because, oh, it smacks of effort. I’m not hiking (I prefer that in the fall when it’s not so buggy), and not canoeing/kayaking/sailing. (See “effort” above). I’m not camping at the Cape, or in Maine, or actually, anywhere.

I don’t even like iced coffee all that much.

Summers greatest disappointment: we like to think it will be like the summers of our youth—carefree, open ended, lazy, full of reading and beach trips. It will never be that again.

“Quit complaining and tell us what you do like,” I hear you say. Fortunately, even for an inveterate summudgeon, there are things that do redeem summer, especially here in my little city. They are, in no particular order:

June’s explosion of roses. The magical few weeks when the lilacs are in bloom. The stunning pink lilies in my garden. We went away in early July one year and missed them. We’re not allowed to do that again.

Our CSA farm. In June, I think it is the greatest thing in the world. All this wonderful produce? All for me? By October, it’s just one more thing to deal with. But there is always a point, standing in a field at the end of the day, when the air has cooled and there is no child whining, when I’m picking sugar snap peas or green beans, and I can’t imagine anything better.

Eating things from my backyard. I didn’t grow up with vegetable gardens, so I haven’t lost the thrill of walking into my backyard and clipping some basil or picking some cherry tomatoes. My husband does most (OK, all) of the gardening, and he doesn’t believe in structured vegetable gardens. He plants wherever it makes sense, so the melons are around the side of the house, the cherry tomatoes along the fence, the sugar snap peas on the other side of the yard. Since I don’t plant the vegetables, I never quite know what growing. It’s nice to discover that the vine growing on the deck is actually cucumbers. Right now I’m eating fresh cukes like candy, and I’m both delighted and appalled at their tiny prickly spines.

The light. When I think of childhood summers, my first thought is almost always to the quality of light in the evening—coming home from the beach or after playing at a friend’s house all day. That’s still the same.

Early morning. I’ll admit that I rarely see it. Even if awake, I barely see it (I’m not a morning person). But when circumstances dictate that I’m up and out before 8, there’s a bonus: the quiet, the coolness, the potential.

Walking to Herrell’s Ice Cream, standing in line, eating Burnt Sugar and Butter while sitting on the wall across the street, and watching all the people from Connecticut walk by. Or Go Berry when I’m feeling yogurty. Really, this is our primary summer activity: some variation on going downtown and looking at people.

Going outside in my pajamas at 11:00 p.m. to watch the International Space Station fly over, and catching a shooting star while I’m at it.

Hanging out with friends on a deck somewhere, in the early evening, with a vodka tonic.

Each year, there is a moment, usually in mid-August, when my feed is littered with photos from Cape Cod and Maine, I’ve just driven the carpool to Deerfield, and a car goes by with kayaks on the roof, and I hit bottom. That’s when I calmly smack myself in the head and remind myself that I live year-round where I used to vacation. I may not travel often to wonderful places, but I do get to live in one.


Our very own July 4th fireworks.

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