Summer just fell upon Maine. It came a little late this time, choosing to rest on its laurels and make the revelers pace breathlessly in anticipation of it, much like Angelina and Brad arriving last to a red carpet event.
We can’t complain now that it has arrived, but there was an agony in the waiting. Everyone seems to agree, even the old-timers who may not be able to find their car in a parking lot but have an uncanny memory for the record high and low temperatures of the last half-century, that summer was late to the party this year.
I may not have empirical evidence to show that the effects of climate change are being perpetrated upon us already, but I do have two months worth of phone calls from my mother in Arizona during which she said — each time — “What do you mean it’s only 58 degrees?” She’d pause to stick a pack of frozen peas down her shirt. “It’s been 130 for as long as I can remember here.”
The temperature may have wobbled between 40 and 80 degrees for most of June, but the other evidence of summer could not be disputed. The ice cream stores opened. The novelty sweatshirts antagonizing Yankees fans were re-hung. Towels went down at the beaches. Tourists began asking where to find lobster rolls and blueberry cobbler. Most obviously, however, school came to an end.
While my own children have been out of school for nearly two weeks now, most of the schools in the area have only just concluded. This means that I have heard, “I’m hungry,” twelve thousand times more than the moms of those children have, but they will soon catch up.
I have acclimated, in fairly quick time, to the demands for popsicles just after sunrise. I have gotten used to telling the children that they cannot watch a movie because how else will we fill the twenty hours that follow lunch time? They’ve abandoned shoes and helmets while I have relinquished the use of an oven and a bra.
I can be found most days at the beach, surrounded by both children and seagulls, each picking furiously around my feet for stale pretzels. I bring a book, which is the same book that will occupy my hands in August as it did in June, because every time I open it, I will be asked to bury someone or turn someone else into a mermaid.
I am joined by other mothers looking to hold books they won’t read and sandwiches that will be swallowed only by the sand. We talk of the teachers, the classrooms and the workload of the year behind us, as well as that of the year ahead. It brings us a comfort to talk about those who have disappeared, to affirm that we once were a part of something and — with any luck — will be again.
We trade insider information about summer camps, both the babysitting kind and the lake kind. Wendy rented a camp for a week? What benevolent things can we do for Wendy to ensure some invitations there? Marilyn’s kids are going to six weeks of Tanglewood? Is that the one that focuses on art? Or the one that exposes the kids to survivalism in the woods?
What we are actually building up to is a discussion about the camps that are led by the attractive and muscular Dutch men. We banter about the camps hungrily and longingly because we know that they are not actually happening. To talk about them temporarily erases the reality that one of our children has spent the last hour eating seaweed, a different one has sprayed sunscreen in their eyes, and another is wedged within a rocky crevice he was forbidden to enter in the first place.
We leave the beach, either crisped by the sun or stricken by the chill, in search of the next activity. What that might be is anyone’s guess. We might wind up in a line for hot dogs down at the harbor. We might arrive to someone’s backyard as dogs and kids crowd into a plastic play pool littered with potato chips.
No matter where we land, the moms will sigh, relaxing into the realization that we have filled another day without time. We look at each other, eyes glazed with both fatigue and calm, knowing that tomorrow will bring another open expanse. But we know one thing for sure: That we will find each other.
And that we will hear, “I’m hungry.”