When you’re third-grade-going-on-fourth, everything changes in the summer: the tastes, the smells, the rhythm of your life.
Time slows down, for example, during adult swim. When you’re sitting next to your brother on the edge of the pool, your eyes red from chlorine and the spandex of your swimsuit bottom pilling against the rough concrete, every minute is five. Dignified middle-aged women ease into the water and take a few laps in an impossibly slow, mannered breast stroke — the water barely rippling, defying physics — while you wait for the lifeguard’s whistle, the signal that you can resume your game of Marco Polo.
The late afternoon and evening are full of satisfying sensations unique to July: the warmth of a fresh tee-shirt after the clamminess of your bathing suit, the smell of charcoals crumbling into gray while your father folds garlic and pepper into raw hamburger patties, the tinge of fear when you break away from the group during a late-night game of Ghost in the Graveyard. Without impending math tests and social studies projects, the evenings stretch on indefinitely, lit by kitchen windows and — at least in my 1980s childhood — by electric-blue bug zappers.
The other children you see during those games darting behind trees, past your neighbor’s garage, into the overgrown thicket between houses are, in fact, the same kids you saw every day in school, but now they are different creatures. They wear flip-flops and have bug bites. Their mothers give you drippy push-up orange sherbet pops when the game is over. In September they’ll transform again, from teammates and conspirators to classmates.
This is, of course, sentimental and nostalgic. I have managed to remain a student for most of my life and therefore subject to the school-year calendar, but as a so-called adult summer doesn’t offer the same release, the same total revision of the world. Sitting indoors filling out job applications and doing laundry, it’s painfully apparent: my life between May and August is full of tasks big and small that supposedly comprise a responsible, mature existence and definitely signal that I am no longer eligible for midnight games of freeze tag.
In an attempt to ensure that our grown-up summer does not disappoint, Danny and I purchased a little hibachi grill and some kebabs for tomorrow night. The charcoal smell — it will return! — and just in time, as it’s already getting hot here in the Bayou City.
I think I’ll pick up a bottle of white wine tomorrow afternoon. Definitely a perk of adulthood.