Thursday, July 26, 2012

What I miss

I think about summers when I was a kid, and summers now. And there are some things I miss, that I probably didn't fully appreciate when I was a kid.

One thing: Where I grew up, it got down into the fifties, or at least the lower sixties, every night. You could open your windows at bedtime and it would be cool enough to sleep. (This was also in the era before "boom cars" - my neighborhood was pretty quiet). Here, where I live now, we get a stretch (starting about now) where 80 is the low at night. And that just feels all kinds of wrong to me, and it makes me sad.

Also, along with the getting cool at night, every morning when you got up when I was a kid, the world felt fresh and new. There was usually dew and sometimes even fog, and the air smelled good. We'd get breezes overnight that would sweep away any funk of the previous day. Here, where I am now, we get persistent high pressure during the summer, and even though the dewpoint is very high it seems very dry out...and when I walk out of the house at seven in the morning to go to work, I can still smell the exhaust from the truck route a couple streets over, and the stale grease from the Dairy Queen, and if a skunk got hit out on the road, I smell that too...the world seems kind of tired, like it didn't get renewed overnight.

(It's entirely possible the "world made new"/"same sad old funky world" is mostly a construct of my mind, and is the difference between being 8 and being 43.)

Another thing I miss - not so much the freedom of a summer-off-school., because frankly, the freedom got a little boring after a while - but the way you could go out in the morning and the world felt bright and new. I don't get out in the mornings much, other than to head over to work. I get some inkling of that old feeling on the rare days off from school when I either head out to do field research early, or I head off to do something like early grocery shopping. The sun's just coming up and there's a feeling of POSSIBILITY. I guess that's what I remember as a child: waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and then having a full day in which to do exciting things.

I went to a day camp for a couple years when I was a kid (I started going mainly because the person who was my BFF at the time was going). We'd show up early in the morning, just as the fog was starting to dissipate. I remember the activities: tennis first, then crafts, then swimming, then a rest period or sometimes organized games like capture the flag. Once a week (as I remember) they did away with that schedule and we either played big games all morning or took a field trip. (Usually the field-trip days were all days and we either packed lunches or had a box lunch). Now that I look back on it, I'm glad I had that experience. I was never that great of a tennis player, and the crafts weren't that exciting (the older girls got all the good colors of plastic lacing, and besides, I never got the hang of making lanyards). But I did conquer my fear of deep water in the swimming part, and actually got to be a pretty good swimmer. And also, just hanging out with friends and drinking "bug juice" (and making gross jokes about why it was called "bug juice") and running around the buildings of the big old prep school that I later attended for high school...

Another thing I miss from childhood summers: the weather was variable. Here, it gets hot, stays hot, and doesn't rain, usually from June until late September. When I was a kid, we'd have maybe a week or two of really hot days mid-August, but the rest of the time it bounced between the 70s and low 80s, and there was even the occasional day when a cold front came across the lake and cooled it down into the 60s. And some days were overcast, some days it rained. It didn't feel like every day was a carbon copy of the others, which is how it sometimes feels here, and I find that's not very good for my psyche. I find myself scanning the weather maps, hoping for a cold front (though they rarely bring any temperature relief) or any small chance of rain.

I'm sure part of the weather I experienced as a kid was due to it being a historically cool decade (the 1970s). I remember a few years in my late teenaged years when it got pretty dang hot - one summer we were flying back from vacation and there was some concern if we'd be able to take off on our connecting flight from Chicago to Cleveland because it was so hot....I think there was a report of a plane having a blowout on one of the landing gear that was blamed on the heat.

I wish we'd get another "historically cool" decade during what remains of my lifetime. (Though at this point I'd settle for the coming winter to be cold enough to kill off a few of the bugs).

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