Throughout the neighborhood you can hear them: acorns dropping on decks. They come without warning -- little soldiers of the night wielding their autumnal ammunition. When I awaken, the deck is laden with these intrusive visitors reminding me that that the last days of summer are officially over. The trees are preparing for change, and I, too, must switch gears and make the transition. I am not quite ready.
First, the crickets arrived in August, making their debut visit. They appeared on cue, part of the summer's grand orchestral music. But acorns are something else -- loud, ungraceful with no sense of summer in them. They clutter the yards and can't be ignored. Birds drop by for a look, followed by squirrels, which sit on their hind legs anticipating their winter feasts. For them, acorns are welcome sights -- sustenance for the dark days ahead.
I am not one to go gently toward a new season. Autumn arrives in living color, but summer, the hot nymph she is, is more seductive. I can't let her go, and cling to her like a cherished friend. Or, maybe it is summer's warmth that I find so beguiling -- the unencumbered lightness of being that fills me with an almost childlike euphoria.
It has always been this way. In my youth, I muddled through winter, dressed in one-piece snowsuits and mittens, a scarf wrapped tightly around my neck so that only my face was exposed. It was confining. Then spring poked her way through the snow. The air smelled sweeter. March arrived -- my birthday month -- exploding in a mass of green splendor.
Robins flew over my house and soon flowers poked through the earth; the heaviness of winter was finally over. But something even grander was nearing: Summer, and with it, subtle changes that bordered on hypnotic. Heavy coats were shed for lighter garb, heralding in a new season. I greeted her arrival by dragging my bike out of the garage and circling the block while dogs nipped at the tires, and Eddie, the bad boy came out to taunt us. Eddie appeared only in summer, and if he could catch us, he would have thrown us from our bikes where we would have met our demise in the most horrific ways.
Summer brought with it a sense of excitement, stimulating my senses, allowing me to explore the ever-waiting adventures that lay ahead. I did most of my exploring in summer. I took chances -- dared to push myself beyond the limits. I became independent. I blossomed.
One summer, I caught a fish off the waters of Maine. I licked my way through hundreds of Good Humor bars and pressed black watermelon seeds on my face, parading around in spotted glory. I learned to dive from a high board and skinned my knees running away from my mother, who chased after me with iodine and Band-Aids. On summer nights before I left for camp, I played hopscotch with Patty, Ruthie and Jane. I climbed the biggest tree on our street, coming home scratched and happy to a waiting tub filled with soap bubbles. I fell asleep to the hum of an attic fan, and retreated to movie theaters that were air-cooled -- a welcome relief from the scorching heat outside.
I sweated my way through the months, never once complaining. My legs were adorned with mosquito bites. I went to bed covered in Calamine lotion, never once worrying about West Nile Virus. Those days, we survived everything and managed to grow up. I hit tennis balls against the backboard in the park adjacent to my street. I became efficient at catching lightening bugs kept in a glass jar with its perforated cap. By morning, their lights had extinguished, and I mourned their demise, feeling guilty until the next night when I indulged again in this childish delight.
Now, years later, these are all but distant memories. But the charm of summer lingers still, and it's hard to say adieu even with autumn breathing down our necks.
This morning, it seems cooler than usual. Reluctantly, I drag a sweater from my drawer. By noon, the sun rises high in the sky and hope reigns eternal once more. Summer was only teasing and has resurfaced if only for a little while. Its scent lingers. I inhale its perfume until I am heady and hot.
But tonight, after the sun sets and I am well-ensconced in my bed, they will appear: Acorns dropping on decks, lulling me into a restless sleep as I dream of fireflies lighting up my world, and those never-forgotten moments that made summertime so magical, and haunt me still.