Summer

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A Kernel, by David Woo on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I’m pushing aside the things I need to do right now. Just for a few minutes I will enjoy the serenity of my bedroom, the door to the balcony open to birdsong.

The weekend was cuckoo bananas, wall-to-wall fun. We were catapulted into summer:

Lemonade stand:

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Money proceeds
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Right over here!!

block party, outdoor concert, Father’s Day, school picnic, bike ride:

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Jamaica Bay, from Floyd Bennett Field

AND to top it off, a barbecue.

I love summer. I always have. I love the heat, the humidity, the loud hum of a field full of insects… and the bright, endless sun.

It just isn’t fun for me anymore. Sometimes I dread leaving the house, when there is bright sun. And there will always be sun.

For most of my life, sun was no problem at all, it was a treat. Sunscreen applied in a perfunctory way, and bare shoulders and a pair of cheap sunglasses. I recall dragging a lounge chair out of the garage to the backyard and lying out. I cannot believe what a terrible idea that was. And yet, according to my surgeon, the damage was not done in adolescence, but earlier. All those peeling sunburns as a kid. And who knows? Maybe the UV light I logged time under as a jaundiced newborn.

I can’t really enjoy the bare shoulders anymore. I still bare them, but now there is a sense of danger. I’m exposing myself needlessly. I may as well take up smoking or chewing tobacco, when I’m out in the sun with skin exposed. When I’m walking in the city, it becomes a race from shade to shade, crossing the street at inconvenient places, just to stay out of the sun. Swimming is less fun, now that I have to wear a shirt while doing it. A shirt that feels okay in the water, but when I come out, clings to all the wrong spots, not unlike plastic wrap.

I hate the panic I’m necessarily instilling in my children about the sun. Especially the one who is paler and who freckles like I do. I hate bringing up issues of mortality while I apply sunblock to his writhing, uncooperative limbs. I hate how much good sunblock costs. How it will undoubtedly ooze from the tube or bottle I send in each kid’s backpack to summer camp, covering everything with zinc-y sludge, but only if it doesn’t get lost on the very first day of camp.

But I still love summer, and the sun. It’s just that my love has gotten more complex – fraught, tinged with resentment, concerned with the need to protect myself. I’m guarded. But I know that one day very soon, I will hit a sweet spot, I will be wearing plenty of sunscreen and a hat I don’t hate and I’ll have a summery drink in my hand and J will too, and a light breeze will caress my bare shoulders while the kids, properly sunblocked and behatted, are off playing at a distance.  Then I will have a moment of ease, and forget that that feeling used to last for three months.

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