Growing up, summer meant that school was out, and all I really cared to do was pretend that I was a version of Britney Spears, strolling along Rockaway beach, singing the words to “Sometimes,” while envisioning my life as a pop star. In this recurring fantasy of mine, I used to live in a big, beige house that was situated on the dead-end of a winding road, sand and water always right outside my door.
There were days and nights spent at an amusement park somewhere near a bay in Brooklyn. I used to lose my shit over a creepy-looking statue that stoically stood in the middle of the crowd, but my fears subsided when I’d ride an orange bus that lifted me up into the sky, and then back down again, the speed increasing with each turn. It wasn’t a thrilling roller coaster, but for me, that was enough. And after the ride was over, I’d devour one of those firecracker popsicles, perfectly content to lick the red, white, and blue till there was nothing left, even if melted ice dripped down my neck and onto my shorts.
During the summers of my adolescence, my 15, 16, and 17 year-old self clung to the notion of the waves. If you were to ask my boyfriend at the time, he would tell you that I was obsessed with the idea of floating like a mermaid. Why haven’t I explored the water like that before? Was it a fear of drowning? Did I simply shrug it off since I usually gravitated toward pools anyway? I wasn’t completely sure, but all I recall was the summer of 2006 when I said fuck it, let’s do this. Let’s swim and immerse ourselves in the ocean’s lair. Let’s move past the uncomfortable rocks and the gross, awkward seaweed and tread water – let’s stand still for a goddamn minute.
Showers back from those humid, sticky, floating-in-the-water beach ventures were the best. The scent of sunscreen and salty air still lingered on me, and I’d smile to myself when I’d notice a sunburn on my body. My skin would darken, I thought. I’ll look tan and experienced in summer’s habitat. I used to want my hair straightened, but in those moments, post-beach, post-swim, I reveled in my natural curls.
Old summers were filled with visits to my grandmother’s at the shore, not too far from Springsteen’s whereabouts in Asbury Park, soundtracks that featured Say Anything, Gwen Stefani, Paris Hilton (remember “Stars are Blind?”), The Goo Goo Dolls, and the Black Eyed Peas, cheap seafood, plenty of chlorine, oceans that shimmered in the sunlight, walks under skies at dusk, and the freedom that comes with being a kid or a teenager.
Summers now embody more responsibility, more heaviness, and more nausea from the heat. As a twenty-something, I find myself sifting through this limbo-like, transitional period that’s filled with immediate unknowns, while also trying to keep earning paychecks doing what I want to do.
Summers now embody strong reactions to the hot temperatures; a particular repulsion to the weather that I haven’t experienced prior. I wonder if I was able to handle the crazy heat much better years ago, or if I just didn’t seem to care as much. My mother says that people tend to care more when they get older.
And every year, before the coolness of autumn arrives, I clean out my drawers to make room for the fuzzy sweaters, the long-sleeve blouses, and the worn-out sweatshirts. I stow away the bathing suits, the turquoise and silver beach bag that still smells like banana boat lotion, and the light tops – all back into hibernation for winter. I become nostalgic for that past summer, nostalgic already.
And although the summers now and the summers to come are no longer the same, when I do pack those few months into bags again, I’ll be sad to see them go.