When I was smaller, I regarded the Fourth of July as a benchmark. A hard and fast entity, that, while always promised the sizzle of the grill, wet feet slopping drops from the pool to patio, and the fireworks at Limerock, first and foremost, the holiday meant one thing.
Half of summer gone.
I’m still small. In stature and in mind. Because even with the advent of Summer Fridays, the unrelenting pour of rain (that really shouldn’t tally, as it cuts back on useable warm days), and a vacation planned in August, before this moment, I’ve suffered from the idea that summer is a marked man.
An unshakeable feeling that his death is near.
Perhaps my gloominess is not entirely unfounded, just misdirected. It could very well be that the end of summer for me is pending, looming. Though not exactly because it’s Independence Day Eve. Maybe it’s because my summer job is actually my real job, trading the contraband crème brulees and cigarette breaks of a bus girl for the matching accessories and fountain pen of a worker bee.
No longer do I ride my bike to the little grill in town, I take the subway to a monstrous building cookie-cut from the mold of so many others.
No longer am I paid in cash, wrinkled bills stuffed into a maroon apron without counting, then shoved into a drawer, retrieved only for dime store lip-gloss and the cost of entry to a kegger. A paycheck arrives, already deposited into a bank account, full of columns and numbers and taxable subtractions. Depending on the week, it goes straight away to rent.
My parents say that they really don’t have a summer any more. Each day of the season cannot be distinguished from the last, save for the humid weather and weekend barbeques.
I find that heartbreakingly depressing. I refuse to become an adult about this. I see the error in my maturation and need to stop it. Not to remain young at heart, but because I know, deep down, I just will never be able to fully give it up. The memories of summers cascade through me.
Sleepovers, cooking fireside, mosquito bites, the community pool.
Swim lessons, day camp, packed lunches, pickles, juice boxes, shorts and scabbed knees, my bike, the sky, the porch, the burst of sparklers, Frisbee with my dogs, the ice cream truck, playing dodge ball in the dead-end street after dinner, the walk to the sticker store, the passenger’s seat of my parent’s car.
Field parties, his parent’s house when they’re in Europe, the drive between, the trampoline, red cups of beer, the backyard, Tiki torches, tank tops, popsicles, the sundeck, the evening.
Now glasses of white burgundy, the shore, beach towns, weddings, parties, walks around the block in search of gelato, counting the handful of stars visible in the city, taking those days off of work, ice coffee, her homemade desserts, his friends and their cigars, the garden in the back of the bar, the rooftop, paper lanterns, votive candles, the exclusive pool somehow within reach, Coney island for the concerts and hotdogs, the parade, shifts and linen.
Summer does alter as we age. But not in a bad way. Maybe it’s that summer does change tunes, but never quality.
For me, I just won’t let it. This has always been my most beloved time of year. And this year, I’m regarding the Fourth of July as the beginning of summer, not the middle, because I haven’t noticed it until now, haven’t slowed down with a belly-breath and a Sno-cone until now. Because now that I'm older, what I've lost in freedom, I've gained in choice.
So this year, I choose summer. Summer as a state of mind.
And it’s only just begun.