Chasing Summer

July 22, 2012

Allow me to provide you, precious reader, with a bit of exposition to set the stage for this long overdue snippet of All the Suz.. But first I gotta turn down Pandora (Now Playing: “Lazy Projector” by Andy Bird…never heard of him either. It’s a bit depressing in a way only the “Today’s College Indie” station can achieve, but heck–a girl’s gotta try to keep up with the times somehow!)

MacBook P. ‘n Me have decided to “take in the night air” as folk and machines did in the time of Austen and Dickens. Thus and therefore, I am out o’ doors, sitting in an Adirondack chair on a deck facing the Pacific Ocean. To keep out the chill, I am clad in a parka and cocooned into a hunting-scened sleeping bag (think if Napoleon Dynamite and Ernest P.Warrell gave birth to a sleeping bag).  Only the crashing of the waves and the sound of the voices in my head can be heard.

Now, if you hail from a big city, I imagine this scene could seem frightening–something out of an oceanic adaptation of The Shining, but to me, it’s a thing of beauty. The Suz is not easily bored, so although I love the company of those familiar and strange, I enjoy spending minutes, hours, and days solo. This has always been true, and will probably always be so, but in this particular case my self-induced exile is for a pretty annoying reason: I’ve got a case of the Poison Oak*. These red, violently itchy spots surfaced in a couple-three or more places on my body (wouldn’t you like to know), but most disturbingly on my freaking face. I look like a burn victim who’s left eye is about to shut. It’s pretty gruesome, so I’ve gone into seclusion at a generous (is there any other kind?) friend’s place in a cool section of our planet to calm the skin situation down…all the while lamenting that I’m missing out on the sunny benefits of my very favorite season, SUMMER!  Aside from that complaint, I’m not complaining. In fact, this cozy coastal nook is actually a great place for reflection. A place to conjure up memories while memories in the making are deferred like that student loan you took out Spring semester of your senior year…

Let’s be honest, how the heck any of us gets out of bed sometimes is a mystery greater than the whole building of the Pyramids deal, but at least for me, a bit of warmth and sunshine makes the endeavor a heckuva lot easier. Unless you live somewhere with those black-out shade thingies that allow a person to sleep for days, the best summer morning moment is waking up to brilliant beams of sunshine. Somehow, though, I have been chasing summer all spring…just when I almost reach its rays or verce-visa, I’m out-run. It’s not that I’m all wistful about the sounds and smells of family BBQs (a Boca burger actually cooks better indoors) or the promise of 4th of July tailgating in a Dallas Cowboy’s halter top (mine’s in storage). It is, quite simply, the weather! The sun! Not the promise of it  à la “The sun’s bound to come out ONE of these days”, but the guarantee! I need sun like I need my multi-vitamin or dose of The Real Housewives of Orange County Reunion Part II Recap!

To those of you who’ve ever seen the hue of my skin after the age of 5 when, according to my mother, I was “brown as a berry”, it appears I avoid sun like the Plague of Your Choice. I make cave-dwelling albino rats look like rodents who radiate a “healthy glow”. So no, for me summer is not about 8-hour days sun of worshipping, but about the heat it provides. I love being able to walk outside with a Grandma Sweater for use ONLY in air-conditioned indoor settings. Sure, I sweat like a pig-who-tried-to-run-an-Ultra-Marathon-whilst-in-a-steam room, but nevertheless, I’d rather be mocked for my schvitzing than miserable from my shivering. I have discussed this, the Hot vs. Cold argument, at length and could go on vehemently for days, but with a brief synopsis, you’ll either agree or you won’t.

Ahem: In my world, there are exactly 2-degrees of wiggle room where it’s either too hot or too cold. My body’s “temperature control mechanism” is disasterous in general, but when it comes to warming up (which first requires thawing out), it takes an external heat source and/or a couple of hours to combat a serious bone-chill. So if I’m freezing and I enter a heated room, it still may take an hour by the fireplace and/or the help of a hairdryer (I’m telling you, it works wonders on the feet–you try it! You try it and you’ll see!) to thaw out. On the other hand, even though I know some of you say “there are just so many layers a person can shed in public…”, if I’m in the heat and find a place that’s cool or at least shady, my body temperature drops relatively quickly, and peace and harmony is often restored without an elaborate external cooling source.

“But the sun is, well, sunny…and you’re translucent, so…this isn’t making sense, Suz.” 

Fair enough and point taken, but a girl can still enjoy the yellow hue of our solar system’s biggest star from underneath the shade of an umbrella and her Disney Princess towel. Sure, even when doused in SPF 70, those “cute” little freckles aka: Age Spots-in-training, make their annual appearance in full force, but it’s worth it to experience what it must feel like to be a flower blooming to life.

Each summer has a specific trajectory of memory and when I squeeze my eyes, the act of remembering is like the act of placing tinfoil on rabbit ears; adjusting them just so, and when I find the sweet spot, I hold still and experience.

There was the summer…

Staying up late: 10:35 PM Mountain Time Zone after the late local news, watching David Letterman on the rocking couch half my size while I sometimes enjoyed a Reece’s Peanut Butter cup/Cookie Dough-combo DQ blizzard. My mom calls this couch the “cuddle rocker”—the same one she used to rock me to sleep in as I cried through many months of chronic infant ear infections. Could I have imagined I’d someday be an intern there…?

The summer when our backyard on Beech Drive in the neighborhood of tree streets was overtaken by the City of Great Falls. A previously unknown sinkhole was about to swallow up our new 2-story white-and-brick house. For many summer days and nights we endured the sounds and smells of Cyclopean slurping pumps as they corrected what happens when a house is built on property-formerly-known-as Swampland.

The summer when I roller-bladed every night to Sting’s Fields of Gold, making myself go just far enough to break a sweat and make it through the song at least 5 times, varying the route for maximum benefit and pretending I was in off-season training for my burgeoning speed skating career.

Brownies summer: I washed dishes outdoors cloaked in a poopy brown Brownies uniform when all I wanted was to wear Girl Scout Green. This was supposed to teach me the ways of Girldom; preparation for the real deal Green. I never made it that far. “One is silver and the other’s…outta here!…”
The summers at our family friends’ beef cattle ranch. Chickens with their heads cut off. Calves being birthed. The tabby cat brothers we brought home even though I was allergic.

The summer I went to Disney World and then on The Big Red Boat cruise with my dad. I got blood blisters in Nassau, Bahamas, and encountered my first taste of what poverty looks like as little kids sold their wares from the shore and in the ocean. I also found out my cat, Dewey (a.k.a Friskers/Friskey) had been bitten by a rattlesnake and nearly died–but not until I got home, thanks to my mom compassionately withholding information.

The part of the summers I went to the local basketball camp, a mostly humiliating experience for a kid who was tall but not necessarily “mean enough” to elbow other girls (one of whom cruelly bore the nickname “Gorilla Girl”) in the face. A mostly fruitless experience, although I did learn that one Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bar is not enough to fuel an entire day’s play.

The many, many, summers spent at my grandparents’ cabin on Flathead Lake resting 30 minutes before swimming in the lake of the lurking Flathead Lake Monster, cooking bacon on a giant skillet, and pretending to make calls from the rotary phone. One summer I split open my left big toe on a rock and received my first 7 stitches. Zap! It still makes me cringe. It also makes me more than cringe to know that the place is gone–overtaken by a not-so-nice family member but, well, that was a different summer…

Reality TV summer (see above, ongoing)

The summer which simultaneously fills me with regret and happiness. Regret for not embarking on a European backpacking adventure with my friends and late husband, and happiness for staying back and taking some of my favorite college courses at NYU. After all, when else could a person create a papier-mâché flow chart where John Stewart Mill-meets Foucault in a class of 5?

The summers, the summers…the seemingly endless summers.

The times when 3 months seemed to go on forever and then, poof! Those Back to School ads appered in full force. Just how many Crayola Crayons would I be able to talk my mom into this year? Time to start 5th grade. Only 2 more seconds until middle school, that living nightmare of pimples and crushed crushes. Use a scalpel to dissect a frog; accidentally poke scalpel through frog’s skull and become insanely disturbed. Become Vegetarian. Live life of ridicule/question/praise thereafter…

Summer of hope
Summer before I knew what I would know.
The summer I sang backup for Bob McGrath from Sesame Street at the Montana State Fair…my shining moment was the “Dino Rap” which, yes, I can still remember word for cringe-worthy word.

The summer when I worked at the Cine 4 Movie Theatre just before going off to my first year of college at the University of Pennsylvania…this was the very same summer I got my now infamous star tattoo on my right hand (although if you’re a kid reading this, yes, I draw it on every day). And boy howdy is THAT a summer story…

The summer I came to my new makeshift “home” at the Hidden Villa Cottages in Cannon Beach, Oregon, to “relax and rejuvenate” when the lease was up on the Wall Street apartment I shared with Dan. This was the summer my mom first fell and the “Saga of Linda’s Dislocations, The Wound VAC, et al” began.

The summers, the summers…the endless summers. 

But now…those memories are part of what makes me who I am; part of the collective memory I carry to the grocery store and in my carry-on onto a plane right next to the zip-lock baggie of 3-oz. liquids; what it means when people I meet ask,

“What’s your name? What do you do?”

I could say, “My name is Susan.” I could say, “My name is your name, too. I do what you do.”

I could also say, “My name means ‘lily’ in Hebrew. My name means ‘Full of grace'”.

I am created by Summers, formed by the magic rays of our solar system’s largest star.

Walk, skip, jump, run, or take the bus, but chase summer.


*Note: before press time, I suspected these hideous marks to be Hives, but found out after a quick trip to the doctor (Zoomcare…hopefully the wave of healthcare’s future) that even though the marks appeared days later, it was indeed the Poison of the Oak. Zounds!

2 Responses to “Chasing Summer”

  1. Tara Says:

    Wow. This brings me back to my summers. So different from yours and yet completely the same. I did what you did, I was who you were. We are so much more than who we are. Thanks for reminding me.

    • allthesuz Says:

      You are most welcome, T! It is funny to think of us, seperated by all those middle states no one notices, ending up in the same places. La vita e sempre misteriosa! (P.S. There is an accent on the ‘e’ 😉

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