The people of Chicago are exuberant and hearty souls. We brave brutal, freezing winters and brief, brisk springs for the grand prize of June, July and August. We never take a sunny Friday afternoon for granted. People smile more, toes are painted a vivid hot pink and you can hear the fans cheering a Bryant home run in Wrigley Field all the way down to the South Loop.
Although autumn won't begin until September 22nd, summer is waning and I'm already feeling a bit forlorn and wretched.
Here are five sublime pleasures that I will miss about summer:
1. Patriotic Holidays
Memorial Day is the starting gun that kicks off summer. 4th of July reminds us we're at the half-way point and you better get moving on your list of lazy things to accomplish. Labor Day warns you that summer is winding down to a dried out creek. It's now or never to go trout fishing or get the courage to put on your bathing suit. There is no pressure on these holidays to decorate your home, purchase and wrap gifts, send cards or worry about spending the day with demanding relatives.
All you have to do is fly your flag, perhaps attend a parade, fire up the grill and recharge with a cold beverage. Honor the Veterans that gave the ultimate sacrifice, celebrate the birth our nation with fireworks and finally, tip our hats to the labor force that keeps this country churning along. Nothing screams "summer" more than these triplets. God Bless America, indeed.
2. Dining Al fresco
Whether it's a hot dog at a ballpark, a latte in a sidewalk café or ribs and potato salad on your deck, everything tastes better outdoors. We try and eat most meals outside, 98 degree heatwaves, thunderstorms and mosquitoes be damned.
If there is a small patch of concrete or a lush patio out back, every establishment that serves anything edible finds a way to set up a few tables and chairs and those are always the hardest seats to score.
After being cooped up for eight months, I'm ready to limit the indoors to work, bathing and sleep only. I'd even sleep outside if we didn't have those pesky coyotes.
3. The Farmer's Market
I spend Sunday mornings at our local farmer's market. By mid-July the southern Indiana peaches, complete with fuzz, arrive. Don't ever buy peaches at the grocery store. Mealy, hard and tasteless, they're probably shipped from California before they have finished growing. However, these golden orbs spoil quickly so I slurp them down, skin and all, and lick my sticky fingers before the bees arrive to do it for me.
There is nothing better in the summer than home grown tomatoes with dirt still on them. Heirloom, Champion or Better Boy. Any kind will fill the bill. There is not a summer tomato that I don't worship. I'll devour them at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing fancy. Salt and pepper. I wish I could live in a place where you could grow tomatoes all year long. Our yard is too shady to grow these wonders, so I depend on the farmer's market for our bounty. They never disappoint.
Finally, sweet corn. In November my mouth aches for fresh corn on the cob. I don't care if kernels stick in-between my teeth, the husks are mess to clean or the silk clogs my kitchen drain. It's the crown jewel of summer eating and local farms produce an abundance so there is plenty for everyone. This market often runs out of peaches, Michigan blueberries and eggs, but never corn. I don't pull back the husks to see if the corn is any good. I trust that it will be and it always is. Thank you, corn growers of Illinois.
Simple, pure, colorful, fresh foods just as nature intended. Delicious.
4. Water Aerobics
Our neighborhood is the proud parent of this historic pool, built in 1923, in the backyard of the former estate of John D. Hertz. This was his summer retreat to get away from the heat and humidity of steamy Chicago. His home long gone, this pool is now our community gathering place during the summer. If you press your ear to the stone wall, you can still hear the music of the roaring twenties and the merriment of legendary pool parties, both past and present.
A group of hilarious and exceptional ladies do water aerobics in this pool three mornings a week to firm up our flesh and catch up on movies, current events, books, sex and our favorite topic, food. It's the highlight of my summer, hands down.
Ann brings the music, Mary keeps us from being lured into "Morbid Monday," Susan's wicked sense of humor makes you choke on pool water while Barb demonstrates how to float in the deep end without a noodle, just like a pro.
When the time comes to put the beach towel and hand weights away for the season, my bathing suit is frayed and bleached from chlorine and I'm still self-conscious wearing sleeveless dresses.
But that's not the point. We may never tone our upper arms, but the camaraderie in the pool has made the frigid water a bit warmer and our burdens a tad lighter. Thanks, ladies.
It's already getting dark earlier. We are losing daylight. This is the one I dread the most.
When we spring forward and gain an extra hour of daylight we all rejoice in the longer days ahead. Summer nights are still bright and shiny at 9:00 pm giving everyone extra time to play golf after work, read in a hammock, walk on the beach or cut the grass so the weekend is truly free. Look outside. At 7:30 the sun is already setting before the barbeque sauce has been brushed on the chicken thighs. Soon it will be dark by 5:00 pm. Then after we fall back, the lights go on at 3:30 pm.
No wonder the snow belt plans vacations in February.
The sublime pleasures of summer are cherished because they are all so fleeting. The season is brief. We wait all year, and then it's over before we can even sharpen the garden tools.
Boating, seasonal fruits and vegetables, swimming, baseball, picnics, no school, hummingbirds, summer reading, sandals, zinnias, ice cream, street festivals and loosening up that tightly wound mind.
The clock is ticking.
I will miss you, summer.
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