Raspberry kisses and calamine

Something about summertime just makes me relax.  I am not sure if it is the humidity or the long hours of daylight or the copious amounts of ice cream consumed but summer months invite laziness.  Anxiety melts.  It does.  The second I step outside, I forget about the “what ifs” and “to dos” and “oh nos” occupying my brain space and instead slowly, deeply breathe in that hot summer air.  Night air is the best, when it is about eight thirty in the evening and the lightning bugs start to come out and the wind is still, not in a stifling, oppressive kind of way, but in a relaxed, laid-back kind of way.  It is not yet dark but no one else is really outside.  Sometimes children are running around the lawn with sticky, Popsicle-coated hands or neighbors are out giving their dogs a final bathroom break, but more often than not, my surroundings are empty.  Everyone else is finishing dinner and bath times and settling into TV shows and air conditioning-blasted rooms, and I am all alone.


I inhale the air.  It smells better, is more healing, than a cigarette or joint ever could be—not that I would ever know, since I have not tried either.   It produces an almost medicinal effect: I feel my breaths slowing, the muscles in my shoulders uncoiling, my spine and abs collapsing from their erect position.  I think about my childhood years, how I looked forward to summers as a temporary respite from stress even in the earliest grades of elementary school.  I knew I would be free—at least for a few months—from grades, from worries of having my name put on the board or receiving discipline, from having my self-worth tangibly measured by red pen edits and percentage points. 


The summer night makes me excited, no matter how many times I go out.  I feel as though I am on the cusp of something big, that something is coming.  When I was younger, my dad would sneak up behind me and plant a fat raspberry kiss on my check or on my neck.  It tickled and sort of burned and made my stomach flip all at once.  I would giggle and scream, more from my thrill that my dad had come to play than from the raspberry kiss itself.  From the kiss I knew that excitement would follow.  My dad might be preparing to join my brother and me in the pool (and he was always far more fun to have in the pool than my mother because he would let me ride around on his shoulders) or push us on the tree swing or play board games. 

Summer is kind of like my father’s raspberries.  I am not quite sure why.  Summer seems to be a transition period in many ways, a chance to catch our breath until what comes next.  It is before the beginning of back-to-school craziness and the holiday season and its insanity.  It invites you to slow your pace.  In fact, it insists.  No matter how much you want time to move more quickly, the days stubbornly remain long, the light endures; every night you look out the window, it is still bright.  The sun’s still luminescence that bounces off the trees leaves seems to beckon, “Go ahead.  Read just one more chapter.  Have that third glass of wine.  I’m not going anywhere.”


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But as much as I love the restorative healing that the summer sparks, I know it cannot last forever.  Nor do I want it to.  Laziness breeds lethargy, and living moves from peaceful to infuriatingly frivolous, purposeless.  The long hours of daylight that I once savored and absorbed to their full inevitably begin to drive towards nothingness. 

I appreciate the abundance of summer’s Vitamin D supply less with each passing evening.  I now just think about sunburns and how the sun’s heat forces my runs to the early mornings or late, late afternoons.  The calamine lotion has stopped alleviating the itch from the mosquito bites that I cannot avoid no matter how many citronella candles I light each dusk.  Staying up late to finish novels and indulging in extra wine may feel wonderful in the moment but actually results in groggy mornings and dull headaches.  Even the raspberry kisses eventually lost their charm.  My father’s mustache would scratch my skin. 


I miss the schedules and the structure and the hurried, important nature of the activity of the remainder of the year.  I crave intention, efficiency, determination…none of which are present in the summer.  Summer drifts toward…well, open-ended possibility.  Possibility is not always good.  After all, meandering towards something—but a something that you are not quite sure what exactly—often leads nowhere or in circles.  The break from routine I had at first so cherished becomes suffocating.  Whereas I could not breathe deeply in the midst of pre-summer’s strict regimen, I now need no air because I need no stirring to do anything.  All around me feels flat, stifling, dead.


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And so the fall always does rush in, and summer fades into a distant memory.  As hard as I try, I can hardly recall the smells calamine lotion and watermelon and chlorine but instead I encounter the scents of brand new crayons and pumpkin and fresh mulch.  Lethargy, too, leaves so completely it as if it had never taken root in my body, although it had; it had seeped deep into my bones.  The crisp autumn air signals me to “hurry the hell up;” the breeze beckons me to walk briskly, deliberately.  I must calculate how to turn my head so that strands of hair do not stick to my lip gloss and teeth.  The laid-backness of the summer has indeed morphed into hyperstimulation: everywhere I look, there is frenzied activity, either a tailgate or poster for a sale or a school bus or a businesswoman hurriedly making her way down the street, frowning, with a Starbucks latte.


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My dad never gives me raspberry kisses anymore.