[audio mp3="https://www.ourstate.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/AUG21-EH-Editors-Column-Summers-Last-Stand.mp3"][/audio] By August, we’d surrendered, succumbed to the steam and swelter of a late Southern summer, and no amount of frozen Zero candy bars doled out at the
By August, we’d surrendered, succumbed to the steam and swelter of a late Southern summer, and no amount of frozen Zero candy bars doled out at the Memorial Park swimming pool in Asheboro could cool us down. We hotfooted around that concrete deck, bouncing on tiptoes to keep from scorching our heels, before diving into water that had gone lukewarm, until we finally just gave up, headed home, and retreated to the backyard, a place where we could still find respite from the baking heat. There, we could lounge beneath the outstretched limbs of a black walnut tree, like the one I sprawled under at my grandmother’s house, spreading out one of her quilts to shield my bare legs against the prickle of the brittle grass. If you were in the east, maybe you found your relief under the broad, five-lobed leaves — a giant’s hand — of a massive sycamore; if you were in the west, maybe under the canopy of a white oak, the venerable fixture shading an old homeplace.
If the first part of summer was to embrace warmth — at the beach, at a pool, our faces turned toward the sun — the second half of summer was to let it go.
We said our goodbyes to the beach, pocketing seashells to bring home and line up on the windowsill as proof that we’d been somewhere. We watched honeysuckle and magnolia and confederate jasmine and purple irises bloom and then fade. The strawberries were long gone and the soft-shell crabs were dwindling, but there were still plenty of tomatoes for sandwiches, still peaches and watermelon, shockingly cold eaten straight from the refrigerator. Instead of welcoming the heat, we chased the chill. We made creamy icebox pies with lemons and buttermilk and ate cold salads for supper: chicken, shrimp, three-bean, macaroni, potato. We sat for hours in front of the fan, the kind with metal blades, talking into it, making robot voices, for our afternoon entertainment.
We jumped at the chance to make one last right-before-school-starts trip to Carowinds, where we rode the Powder Keg Log Flume over and over, just to be drenched with water at the end of the ride.
On Sundays, we climbed into the back seat of the car for a ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, all of the windows rolled down, arms brandished out and waving in mountain air that felt 15 degrees cooler than back home. We stood under waterfalls, no longer bone-shatteringly icy but at last just right. We ducked underground into the cooling caves of Linville Caverns. We took to the trails and sought out creeks and streams, stripping off our shoes and socks to wade, to splash in the cool water before the season was over, before it would be time, in a few months, to wish for warmth.
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