I’m listening to folks on the radio and t.v. sound shocked that it’s hot. It’s Georgia. It’s summer. It’s hot. Get used to it! What’s there to not like about summer? Can you remember a more perfect time than the summers of your childhood? I seem to remember the summers more than I do the Christmases!
Of all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that should trigger memories of summer, I find it strange that the unmistakable, grinding song of the Cicada always takes me back to hot summer nights that were the best part of growing up in the south. Nights spent pulling catfish out of Lake Lanier. Nights spent sitting on the carport of my parents’ house in lawn chairs, trying to catch whatever breeze might be blowing and listening to Ernie Johnson and Milo Hamilton call a Braves’ game on the radio. Nights spent sleeping in somebody’s backyard pretending we were 90 miles from nowhere, when actually we were close enough to hear parents snoring out of open windows. And, on all those nights, there were the Cicadas and their symphony which, in and of itself is an ugly sound, but it was the soundtrack to a lot of perfect days.
But let’s get back to folks fussing about the heat. I think our air-conditioned world has made us soft. I think back to 1973. That summer my family moved from East Atlanta to Stone Mountain. The house we moved into didn’t have central air conditioning, but did have a window unit in every single room of the house. My father very promptly removed each window unit from each room because, in his words, “the Georgia Power Company makes enough money.” He left the window unit on the main floor of the house so that we’d be comfortable while we ate supper. That’s the only time I remember being cool – at suppertime. Other than that it was hot. But you know what? I don’t seem to remember minding it at all.
I remember leaving the house in the morning on my bike, joining up with the kids down the street and being gone all day. There were creeks to navigate, salamanders and frogs to catch and forts to build. We might stop back by the house for a bologna sandwich at lunch and then off we went again for more adventures. I’d like to have about half that much energy now. And I realize it’s a much different world now – parents can’t let their kids out of their sight for a moment, much less hours on end. But during those long days of the summers of my youth, I don’t remember the heat being a deterrent to anything. Even after supper at night, the extra hours of daylight gave us even more time to be outdoors, mostly catching lightning bugs at dusk. And make no mistake – they’re lightning bugs, not fireflies! If you call them fireflies and you think it’s too hot, it might be time to consider a move.
On a recent evening, the subject of homemade ice cream came up. I told my wife that July 4ths always meant homemade ice cream at my aunt and uncle’s place in Dawsonville. I can remember the sound of multiple freezers going but there were always at least two that didn’t have the motorized whine coming from them. That was because my cousin Alan and I were providing the elbow power necessary to keep things churning. I can hear Aunt Nell now – “I think the hand-cranked freezers make better ice cream!” I told my wife “I think it was just one of those character building things that old folks make you go through…sweating buckets out on the porch just to make some ice cream.” She said “yeah, but what would you give to be sitting out there with Alan cranking out some ice cream right now?” I’ll save you the paraphrase of the credit card commercials that remind us of the things and times in life that are priceless. There are plenty of medications that promise to relax us and make us less anxious and depressed. People meditate, pray and send money to television preachers looking for peace of mind. On my tough days, I write myself a prescription of iced tea and an hour or two on the patio listening to those noisy Cicadas. The other night, much to my wife’s amusement, I tried to catch a lightning bug. You know what? They’re a lot faster than they used to be.