As a heat wave settles over New York City and I settle into my fifth consecutive summer sans air conditioning, I find myself reminiscing about my favorite things about summer in the South. While Zelda’s right, there are a lot of things to love about summer in the city (ready access to ice cream being one of them), summer still makes me miss home. These warm months make me nostalgic for that carefree time when summer didn’t mean your-normal-life-but-it’s-hot: It was a beacon of hope at the end of a long school year.
And sure my summers in Kentucky were slightly more humid, and hotter for longer, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. While there are a few things I don’t miss (ask me about the summer of seventeen-year cicadas sometime), there are many things I love. Here are some of my favorites.
Lightning Bugs / Fireflies: Is there anything better than sitting on a porch at twilight watching the lightning bugs? When it’s half-dark, everything’s got a kind of warm purple glow, and it’s finally a little bit cool outside. You can just relax and watch these funky little bugs light up the yard — or you can chase them around and catch them in your hands, capturing a little moment of magic. Lightning bugs are affected by light pollution and thus are not often spotted in and around cities. I miss them.
Backyard Water Activities: Nothing reminds me more of summer than running through sprinklers in someone’s yard or having an epic water ballon battle over the neighbor’s fence, or putting soap on the Slip’N Slide and seeing how fast you can go. Granted my cul-de-sac childhood may have been slightly more idyllic than most, but every time I walk past the hot garbage festering on the Brooklyn sidewalks, I miss it.
Fla-Vor-Ice: Okay, so maybe I don’t need to go all the way back to my Southern childhood to find an ice pop, but there’s something so nostalgic about these silly little treats. Seeing them viscerally transports me back to being 10 years old, when times seemed simpler and “blue” was a flavor. (I would argue that blue is still a flavor, perhaps even the defining artificial flavor of our generation: It’s just disguised as other things like “berry punch” and “blue raspberry.” What even is a blue raspberry?)
That Feeling of Walking Into a Heavily Air-Conditioned Home From the Sweltering Outside: This is not something that is super specific to the South: I still occasionally experience that rush of cold in certain places in New York — but it’s never my home. Air conditioning isn’t a given here. And if you do have it, it adds to that electric bill like mad, so you turn it off when you leave the house and turn it back on when you arrive, leaving you to sit and sweat for a good ten to fifteen minutes until the temperature goes back down. But that swift drop of walking into a place that’s a cool, constant 65 degrees from the outside that’s 100-plus? Nothing beats that feeling.
Afternoon Rainstorms: This was something I thought was pretty exclusive to summer in the South, but climate change has brought it to me this year, at least recently. I’m talking about that moment in the afternoon when it just feels like the air can’t hold all the humidity anymore, and the skies suddenly open up for just a few minutes. When you’re 13 and practically living in your bathing suit, this is fun. When you’re 28 and trying to get home from work dry, it’s…less fun. Still, there’s something romantic about the way the rain pours down for a brief moment and cleanses the earth. Plus you usually get a rainbow afterwards, and that sweet petrichor, and everyone feels just a little bit better.