Wednesday Writing Prompt: When Summer Was Outside

For today’s Wednesday writing prompt, I was going to invite you to describe a summer day from your childhood. But now we’re going to crank that up a notch.

Because my friend Brandon wrote this amazing thing yesterday…this wonderfully apocalyptic (in the most biblical sense of the world) piece has got all my wheels turning. Go on and read it now. We’ll wait…

Ok, right?? I read it yesterday and my mind is still blown.

In the spirit of this future dystopia, here’s your prompt: Think about a summer day from your childhood. Any day, whether very typical or wonderfully atypical. And then write a letter or poem to your grandkids describing to them what summer was like… back when you could still spend summer outside. 

Yes, that’s my way of saying that we’re heading for a future when kids will spend whole summers indoors. And not just because they are woefully buried in their screens or whatever digital something is inevitably next. They will be parked in the a/c for the whole stretch of May to September because the day is coming when it will be too dang hot to play outside.

Lately, I’m feeling like those days are not far off.

Granted, I spent seven summers in Phoenix, where staying inside for the summer is already a thing. You take your kids at the park at 6am, just so they can burn off some energy before the sun climbs its way to full-on meltdown position. And then, for the most part, you spend the rest of your day in the air-conditioned house, car, office or public library. (Thank you, Lord, for public libraries, in all kinds of weather). I was pregnant for two of those summers. And if sometime, you want to talk about misery, for real, I can tell you what it’s like being 8-months pregnant when it is 119-degrees-in-the-shade. And you can’t even have a beer. (Or at least, you can’t have 3).

The desert has its redeeming qualities. In many ways, we could have stayed there forever. One of the reasons we finally left though, was to escape those unbearable stretches of heat. We wanted our kids to be able to play outside in the summer –like we did growing up.

Maybe now I’m just old and literally can’t take the heat. Or maybe those two sweltering pregnancies destroyed my body’s ability to cope with the sun. But since moving to the Midwest, I’m finding that there are fewer and fewer summer days that I can stand to be outside, even here. A lot of days, I don’t even want to make my kids play out there. The last two summers in Kansas City have been miserable scorchers, with many triple-digit-days, record-breaking humidity, and heat that often lingers well into October.

So most days in summer, I still get up super early with my kids and take a walk to the park, just to get some movement in before the sidewalk becomes a sweltering slab of hot lava melting our Tevas… and then it is mostly inside for the day, or else they come to the church office with me. Where we also stay inside. We are bookworms and writers around here, so it isn’t the worst thing. But still. Say what you will, climate change deniers, but I do not remember summers being this trifling hot mess when I was a kid.

I mean, here it is May and my car thermostat has already registered upper 90s a couple of times. We’re still a full month out from actual summer.

Assuming we are on a trajectory here… I figure our grandkids will be swimming and playing baseball from February to April (much like in Phoenix now) and then camping out on the couch for the duration. What will you tell them about what summer was when it was still an outside time? Whether because of climate change, or busy schedules, or just the general business of being grown-ups (lame), I know one thing for sure: none of us play outside enough anymore.

Anyway, here’s mine.

 

Oh, June. I remember you different. 

I remember when you were all freedom and sunshine. 

Not bright-white-stinging-sun. Warm-friendly-soft-singing sun. 

I remember you before you were so angry, and dry and gray. 

Before we drained the joy from your face with our always wanting more. 

We had those terrible popsicles–that came in all the colors? 

That stained our teeth and tongues and dripped down our elbows

And then I guess we too often left those plastic tubes on the ground for you. 

 

June, I remember when you were road trips and families 

fighting and singing and fighting some more in the car. 

and we got where we were going and there were cookouts

where it was never, almost ever, too hot for freeze tag. 

There were burgers and hot dogs and more of those terrible popsicles, in a cooler this time. 

And yes, maybe we left our paper plates and cups and napkins and straws and more of those plastic tube things overflowing the trash can

And yes, maybe we didn’t much care where all those burgers were coming from, or what the cows ate, or how many the miles to our picnic table. 

And then it was just a few more miles of emissions to get us home. 

 

Do you remember, June, when there were kickballs

and metal swingsets, and baseball bats, 

that didn’t burn our fingers to the touch? 

 

I remember, June, when you loved us more often with rain

And the green things you brought up from the earth had a chance to breathe

before your sun sapped them brown and dry again. I remember more rainbows, too. 

I remember when you were all morning mist and long, lingering twilights

Getting cooler and cooler until we almost needed a jacket to out at night

and chase lightning bugs. Or ‘fireflies,’ as the fancy town people call them. 

You never make us wear a jacket anymore. Not even at night. 

And since we moved all the trees, I can’t remember… I can’t remember last time I saw a firefly. 

 

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