It wasn’t until adulthood that I grew to appreciate autumn and dubbed it my preferred season. That has more to do with the temperature and the colors than anything. But summer is my first love. As a child, I waited anxiously for it to arrive and when it did, I embraced it, knowing that our time together would be way too short and its return would take way too long.
Up until I was eight, we lived in Arkansas, where the summers were long, autumn seemed short, and I’d only seen snow once or twice. Our move to Detroit brought with it the excitement of playing in snow, but that fascination waned within a year or two and I stopped looking forward to its return. Winter was cold and inconsiderate and spring seemed like an extension of winter, rather than a transition to summer. I missed summer even more…
Within a few days of the start of summer break, we would drive from Arkansas to my grandparents’ farm in Missouri and be there until a day or so before school restarted. I don't recall ever being on the farm in any other season, although I'm sure I was. So in my memories of the farm, there is only summer: unrestrained, abundant, authentic, and exciting. My grandparents’ farm and summer are locked in an unbreakable embrace.
When we moved from Arkansas to Michigan, we didn’t have a car, so we didn't make the now-longer trip to visit the Missouri farm for about two years. And although our Detroit summers included trips to the park, outdoor games, and swimming, there was an inauthenticity and sense of restraint about it all. I felt cheated. I missed the farm. I missed real summer.
I missed waking up and bolting out the door with bare feet to go exploring. Feet, soil, earth, connection. There was no holding back. No shoes, no concrete, no rules.
Trees full of peaches, pears, plums, pecans. Sunflowers, some so tall that I had to look up to them. They are my favorite to this day. Fields of peanuts, tomatoes, beans, potatoes… all abundant, unrestricted, and welcoming.
We stopped spending summers with our grandparents when I was 11 or 12, but my sisters and I exchange stories about our summers there to this day. My grandparents passed away within a year or two of each other as I entered my teens and the farm was sold. For me, the farm was a part of them and I mourned the loss of all three as one.
In the 50 years since I’ve been there, I’ve not missed a year being there. And so it has never really left me.
Without fail, every summer something triggers my memory of my grandparents, the farm, and real summers. Recently, it’s the fireflies I see in my neighbor’s overgrown backyard as I sit at my desk. My eyes well up with tears of gratitude and joy for the child who bolted from the door with bare feet, exploring the world and seeing its abundance; and longing for my grandparents, who I see in my dreams regularly. They gave us so much more than we knew…