I've spent practically all my life on an academic schedule, one where Summer holds a bit less responsibility, a certain kind of promise, even though I often worked through Summer, took classes, researched, wrote papers and poems and dissertations. I've written before about the summers of my past, the ghosts I face and confront every time I visit Alabama, the way I live in-between places, pulled between my roots and wings.
These days I am awash in nostalgia. Old friends, exes email me, become Facebook friends. The "do you remember when" stories pull the girl I was into the forefront of mind, flashing by like a slide show. This is Your Life: weekends at the river, nights on balconies telling stories, singing to friends playing the guitar, going to breakfast in the clothes I wore the night before, sitting on cars in parking lots when the conversations were just too good to leave, falling in love, in beds and out again, spontaneous trips to the beach, the sound of the waves comforting, quieting my restlessness.
The past and present collide in the Summer and I'm always taken aback by my response to Alabama, the sway of memories, the taste of sweet tea, the way heat stays on your skin long after you come inside from it.
Alabama is a place I can travel to, and visit but not somewhere I can really belong, not anymore. Each time I am there, I feel at ease in this fact. Each time, I feel a bit further and further away and I also feel home, kind of… which, I suppose is as good of a description as any and perhaps the only way to manage the tension of living in-between. This is a tension I face often, the kind of reconciliation I don’t know how to make because there may be no way to really make it.
The ghosts I face, the ones built of what once was, matter. They matter because they shaped who I am, the good and bad, the complex and silly, the selfish and the generous. And while I don’t want to reminisce to the point of exhaustion, I don’t want to forget who I am, nor the girl I’ve been.
Something about Summer will always draw me into memories, waves of nostalgia for the smell of honeysuckle, peeling shrimp in my grandmother's kitchen, watching The Price is Right with my Granny, diving off docks, swimming in the moonlight, Keds caked with mud, furtive glances at Summer crushes you'd never see again. I loved Summer as a kid, loved leaving my house after breakfast and returning just before dinner. I loved the freedom of being outside, away from authority, from rules. I loved riding my bike to the ice-cream shop, to the library, stacks and stacks of books, stories waiting for me to discover them. Even as I got older and worked through the Summers, there was a hint of recklessness to our decisions we might have overlooked when class was in session. We stayed awake a bit longer, drank one or two or four more drinks. We smiled more easily, worried only about getting too much sun. I've always been a bit too serious, and Summer gave me a chance to let things slide, to say things I might not otherwise say, to share more of myself, to run into the crashing waves, or hold hands a moment too long. Summer has never been about standing still, not for me.
Today, summer is time to think, to read, to listen to music a bit too loud, to eat plums, fresh seafood and ignore the way your clothes stick to you in the heat. It is for staying up too late, traveling, reading, and rolling down the windows for the almost cool night air. It is for secrets told on back porches, laughter drifting across lawns, for remembering and forgetting, for throwing yourself into projects, into conversations, into something new.
But never far behind, at least not for me, are all the Summer memories, the promises and possibilities, the yearning to be a little reckless, just a little, once again.
"THEN FOLLOWED THAT BEAUTIFUL SEASON…SUMMER…. FILLED WAS THE AIR WITH A DREAMY AND MAGICAL LIGHT; AND THE LANDSCAPE LAY AS IF NEW CREATED IN ALL THE FRESHNESS OF CHILDHOOD.” – HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW