The local paper has started a feature in which it reprints scenes of summer “from a different point of view – from writers who over the years have featured local scenes in their work.” Hmmm, I haven’t been asked, but I’ve written a few passages about Baltimore summers in my time.
My favorite: “Summer finally began. It began over and over again. It began in mid-May, with a disturbingly early heat wave. It began again on Memorial Day, when the private swim clubs opened for business, even though the heat wave had receded and the weather had reverted to the cold and dreary days of April. It began with each last day of school, district by district, with the city of Baltimore always the last to release its children. It began with the first Code Red Day, an index of air not terror, issued when the heat held the smog too close to the city. It began every Friday about 4 p.m., when the local radio stations reported that the back-ups at the toll plazas for the Bay Bridge were now three miles, four miles, five miles long. It began when the fireflies appeared and a new generation of children tested the folklore that the insects could not fly if one walked with them balanced on a fingertip . . . By the time the solstice actually arrived, summer already seemed careworn and used.”
My family belonged to a private swim club, a place that appears, pretty much unedited, in Every Secret Thing, from which the above is taken. The swim team girls wore beautiful orange-and-brown Speedos with a front panel that one could inflate by holding it out and plunging down into the water. In the water, we played Marco Polo and underwater tag. During adult swim, we played I Doubt It and Pitch and Hearts. Nutty Buddies cost 25 cents. The no-running rule was so strictly enforced that, to this day, I don’t think I would run in a pool area even if I were fleeing some peril.
So how does summer begin, where you are? Or where you were when you were, say, 11?