Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Weekend Open Thread: Summer Staples

This is my fifth summer in new York. I spent almost all the summers before that, save maybe three or four or so, in the Midwest. I grew up overseas but spent my summers in the Midwest and I spent my college years in the Midwest and I lived in Chicago until I met Drew and moved to new York to be with him. I like it here — I’d even say I love it most of the time — but the summers still let me down a bit, and that’s almost entirely due to one little thing: there aren’t cicadas here, or if there are, you can’t har them above the hum of the city, and if you can, it’s not the same sound as the cicadas I grew up with.

A few weeks ago I spent a couple days in Chicago visiting friends, and while I was there, the sound of the cicadas at dusk filled me with so much joy and happy nostalgia, I almost burst into tears each night when I heard them. It’s a sounds that, at once, brings me back to my childhood – licking melting popsicles in my grandparents’ back yard, or trading ghost stories with my Grandpa on the porch swing — and my college years when the singing cicadas signaled an evening unfolding. More recently, they marked the end of a day and were usually celebrated with a cold beer or a cocktail on a friend’s deck as we talked about our grand plans.

What are your summer staples? What are you missing from summers past?

40 comments… add one
  • chicotia August 3, 2012, 4:12 pm

    I miss lightning bugs! Growing up in NJ I was used to seeing them in the summer and have memories of capturing them in glass jars as a kid. I’ve lived in Colorado for almost ten years and we don’t have them here, but we also don’t have humidity so I’d say its a fair trade. I also miss big thunderstorms. They are few and far between but when they do happen it is so exciting!

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    • sobriquet August 3, 2012, 4:25 pm

      YES to fireflies. I live in Texas and they are abundant.

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    • rachel August 3, 2012, 4:31 pm

      I miss lightning bugs too!

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    • katie August 3, 2012, 4:34 pm

      I just moved from Colorado to Chicago, and I had completely forgotten about fireflies! I lived in chicago and Minnesota so I had been around them before. They are awesome. I remember having friends in Colorado who had never seen them… So weird. Lol

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      • rachel August 3, 2012, 4:43 pm

        I haven’t been out at night to see if there are any here yet. Cuz even when it’s dark out, it’s still a hundred degrees (!). I did see what I assume must have been a cicada sitting on the outside of my balcony door though. It was too big to be anything else.

      • katie August 3, 2012, 4:54 pm

        Ha! It does suck- you get fireflies, but you also get a bunch of other bugs… Ew

      • rachel August 3, 2012, 6:06 pm

        I like the noise of the cicadas. It reminds me of summer. But, one year in college they were really really bad, and you would always find dead ones on the ground. Yuck!

      • MsMisery August 6, 2012, 1:38 pm

        Yeah, the 17-year ones are ridiculous. I don’t need a carpet of cicadas, thank you.

    • Ladybug August 3, 2012, 7:25 pm

      I miss lightning bugs too! We have them in DC, but it’s not the same. There just aren’t enough open grassy areas where I live, and it’s never quite dark enough to get the full effect. I grew up in Kentucky, and if you looked out at the backyard late at night it looked like there were diamonds scattered all over the ground because there were so many lightning bugs. I always loved watching them and trying to catch them.

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    • Taylor August 5, 2012, 1:13 am

      I saw a few lightning bugs in Fort Collins a couple of years ago! Only time in 10 years I saw them in CO.

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  • MaterialsGirl August 3, 2012, 4:16 pm

    I miss spending entire days outside, carefree (no job!) and playing with my brothers and sister. We used to play ‘tennis’ in the alley, using one of those short recycling bins as our net. Hundreds of games of ‘horse’ and many more hours playing tag through all the neighbors’ yards. Late summer always brought the cicadas, lemonade stands and those early editions of super soaker water guns. The slip and slide we used to ruin my mother’s lawn.

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  • katie August 3, 2012, 4:36 pm

    Summers to me used to mean my grandmas in Florida, so that means chlorine in the pool, root beer and honey nut Cheerios. Those smells and tastes still remind me of her house…

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  • sobriquet August 3, 2012, 4:38 pm

    Summer is my favorite time of year. Even though everyone is angry and road rage is abundant and my face breaks out due to the 100+ degree temperatures and there is no deodorant in the world to combat it, I wish it was summer all year long. I have had the best summers in Austin. All of them involving bodies of water with my best friends. The greenbelt, the lake, Barton Springs, floating the river in New Braunfels… even just breaking into a neighboring apartment complex pool. Barbecues, backyard parties, fireworks. I have basically LIVED in a bathing suit this summer with a beer cooler as my finest accessory. Once winter rolls around, the thing I miss the most is going out at night in summer dresses without having to worry about getting cold.

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    • Clare August 3, 2012, 4:53 pm

      Barton Springs is awesome!

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      • Wendy's Dad August 4, 2012, 10:40 am

        Zilker Park! A cruise on the “bat boat” in the evening, and a trip to Driftwood and the Salt Lick Barbecue restaurant. I only lived in Austin for a couple of months while I took care of my daughter (Wendy’s sister) who was hospitalized at the time. What a great place to be! But you can have the triple-digit temperatures.

  • FireStar August 3, 2012, 4:44 pm

    Summers were about running through the sprinklers in my backyard, being outside all day, riding our bikes and just making sure to be home before the street lights came on.
    Now summers are weekly trips to the farmer’s market, Barbeques with friends and family, frolicking in the pool and swinging in the hammock.
    And if I’m lucky – a wild thunderstorm or two. I love the storms when the rain is so hard you can’t hear anything else.

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  • Kristina August 3, 2012, 5:25 pm

    I miss the freedom of Summer vacations back in middle and elementary school. I miss sleeping in just because I can, and doing nothing all day. My boyfriend and I go away pretty much every weekend in the summer, and that’s something I will definitely miss.

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  • Moneypenny August 3, 2012, 5:28 pm

    I know nothing about lightning bugs (never seen one, living in Northern CA) nor thunderstorms. But, what I think of is dry, hot summers and spending afternoons and evenings til dusk picking blackberries, peaches, and plums in my backyard. We’d get tons and tons of peaches thanks to a few huge trees planted as pits. Not to mention, since the trees were pretty tall and I was the shortest, I had to get on a ladder and squeeze in between branches to reach the ones at the top. I also miss standing out in the blackberry vines and stuffing myself, while my mom would yell at me to get a basket and don’t stand there and eat them all. My parents still have 2 plum, a peach, and an apricot tree, and now that I’m on my own and seeing the produce out there (and how much it costs!) I totally miss and appreciate what I had. Although, picking it all was a huge pain to me at the time, since it was basically a chore.

    I also miss going to my grandparents’ house and swimming in their pool all day. I’d doze off on the way home, still feeling like I was floating in the pool.

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  • the_optimist August 3, 2012, 4:34 pm

    Wendy, if you’re ever in Queens, stop in Forest Hills Gardens. The cicadas are out in full force most nights. It’s kind of amazing to fall asleep to that sound.

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    • Wendy August 3, 2012, 4:52 pm

      Good to know!

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  • Megan_A_Mess August 3, 2012, 5:39 pm

    The few things I actually miss (because most of it continues to this day) is the smell of raspberry jam from my grandma’s kitchen, and, at least this summer, thunderstorms. My grandma and grandpa would go out every summer and pick tons and tons of strawberries and a few baskets of raspberries, come home, and make the most delicious jam. I even grew up putting their homemade jam on my French toast, and it wasn’t until I actually ordered it in a restaurant when I was about 16 that I realized most people put syrup on theirs! She passed away three summers ago, and everytime I have something raspberry flavored I think of them both, and how it’ll always smell like summer to me. Also, with the storms, I live in Michigan, and we’ve had, maybe seven days of rain this summer so far. I remember when I moved back to MI from AZ two summers ago, it rained everyday for about the first three weeks I was home. Yesterday morning was the first rain we had in a while. It’s a like joke now, when the weathermen warm us about storms, I don’t even bat an eyelash, because 99% of the time this summer, they’ve been wrong! But I do miss the rain, and even how dark the sky would get sometimes, and it would happen so fast!

    What I love about summer though is the smell of the humidity in the warm mornings, before it gets ridiculously hot in the afternoon, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sweetly sour smell of hot asphalt baking in the sun all day, and smelling BBQ’s/bon fires in the evening. I also like the “tropical” smell of most sun-tan lotions, the smell of the rain, and having a ice cold beer or whiskey sour on the porch while the sun sets. I also love going to the beach and taking random road trips, and gardening. They are all really good for my soul and help clear my mind!

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    • lemongrass August 4, 2012, 10:06 am

      My grandma always had homemade white bread when we came over. As a teenager I taught myself how to make it like her’s and now that she’s gone I can make it when I really miss her. You should teach yourself to make jam! It’s pretty simple and rewarding.

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  • niki August 3, 2012, 6:22 pm

    Growing up, it wasn’t summer without my aunt’s 4th of July party. All of my extended family was there. We’d play games and my mom would make a pinata for all the kids. I’m feeling nostalgic for those summers because my aunt passed away recently.

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  • Kristen August 3, 2012, 7:25 pm

    I never knew that some parts of the country don’t have lightning bugs! I love them and can’t imagine summer without them.

    This has been a really great thread; I love reading people’s descriptions of their childhood summers. It’s amazing how summer is really the season that defines a lot of people’s childhoods. So much happens then.

    When I think of summers as a kid, I think of: picking vegetables out of my grandparents’ garden… the smell of the dirt and the tomatoes. Picking fresh green onions, bringing them to my grandma, and watching her clean them before we ate them raw with a little salt. I think of fireworks, in every place we ever saw them, with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. I think of learning to swim in my cousins’ pool… of the “talent contests” we held, judging each other on how long we could hold our breath, how perfect we could flip into the pool, how great our underwater “tea parties” were. I think about playing games underwater where you have to guess what the other person said, even when it sounded like complete gobbledygook.

    I think about lying on the roof of my boyfriend’s (now husband’s!) car to watch the August meteor shower. And running through cornfields with him, hoping we wouldn’t get caught by his neighbors. And having him carry me back to the pond behind his house so I wouldn’t get poison ivy. And getting engaged at that pond, and feeling like everything was coming full circle.

    I think about playing softball until I was so sweaty and hot that I would have given anything to jump into an icy shower. I think about waterballoon fights and touch football. I think about my cousin always (always!) quitting in the 2nd quarter and having to find a way to play 3-person touch football. I remember all the capture the flag games with my cousins and how it felt to ride home in the backseat feeling all exhausted and wonderful and fulfilled at the same time. I think about watching all the trees and fields and houses go by out the backseat window before I could drive.

    Summer, to me, means hummingbird feeders and fresh tomatoes and sitting on the back porch reading magazines while my grandpa swats at bees. It means finding bunny nests and new kittens and making chalk hopscotches on our back patio. It means pumping my legs as hard as I could on my grandparents’ homemade swing, until I was so high I felt like I was flying. And it means spending hours upon hours laying around with friends from high school, thinking that the world could never get any bigger.

    A huge part of me wishes I could go back to all of that, but the rest of me knows there are great summer memories waiting to happen in my adult life, too.

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    • Moneypenny August 3, 2012, 7:40 pm

      I love the description of your grandparents’ garden! My family had a garden too, every year til more recently. The tomatoes grew like weeds, but I didn’t like them, so I would pick them but not eat them. My mom would just eat them right off the vine, all warm.
      Yeah, I believe there are fireflies out where it’s less populated in the more rural areas, but I’m from the suburbs and have never come across any. I was just talking to a friend who is from Georgia originally, and he was saying how he missed them.

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      • Kristen August 3, 2012, 7:44 pm

        I love the image of your mom eating them right off the vine. We did that too 🙂

  • mandalee August 3, 2012, 10:40 pm

    The smell of a campfire always stirs my heart and makes me think of summer. I grew up in the Poconos and our extended family would go camping Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, so my summers were always marked by camping trips. I remember spending hours with my cousins around a campfire, singing songs when we were younger and making food, and sneaking beer when we were teenagers. We’d have four large campsites at a national park and we’d bounce from place to place all day. I haven’t gone camping in YEARS, but summer makes me so nostalgic for it and the memories since most of my extended family is estranged at this point.

    Also, cheerleading and football practices were a huge staple of my summers growing up. I loved the chaos and excitement of it. I remember practicing my cheerleading skills and flirting skills after practice with all the cute football players, thinking I was just “the coolest”.

    I also just remember spending all day and night outside. I’m so thankful the internet wasn’t even a thing yet, because I couldn’t imagine missing out on running around the neighborhood all day, hanging out with my friends, pool hopping, and staying outside until our parents had to force us to go inside for the night. I remember the hottest nights when the moon was just huge, and I would sneak out of my window to hang out with my best friend because I just couldn’t see how someone could sleep on such an amazing night.

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  • Addie Pray August 4, 2012, 2:02 am

    I hate summer. I don’t like the heat or humidity. I don’t like sweating in work clothes. And I’m not a fan of bathing suits, shorts, tank tops, or flip flops. I hate flip flops – can’t stand things separating my toes. Is that weird? I like winter fashion better – scarfs, hats, coats, big sweaters, etc. Maybe if I were a stick I’d like summer clothes better.

    Growing up I hated summers because it meant I had to stop going to school and I missed school over those three months. School was fun! I missed my classmates and my teachers and PE and art class and pizza day and assemblies and field trips and all that fun. I didn’t have anything to do in the summer time – no camps, no vacations, no 4th of July traditions, no family get-togethers, or anything. And I was bad at entertaining myself. I’d wake up, get on my bike, and roam the neighborhood looking for kids to play with me. But often the neighborhood kids would be off to camp or at their grandma’s or at the lake with their families, so I’d just sit outside on the lawn, twiddle my thumbs, and wait for the neighbor’s car to pull into the driveway. Then before they had even gotten out of the car, I’d run over and invite myself in. … I was kind of a lonely kid who needed to be around other people – and I didn’t really get that at home. …. I’m still like this. Maybe if my summers had had more structure or if I had had siblings (near my age) to play with I would have developed some fond memories of summer.

    My favorite part of summer was when Wal-mart would bust out their back-to-school section – I’d go weak in the knees over all the new shiny supplies. I’d beg my mom to take me back-to-school shopping but it was always too soon. She knew I’d use up everything before school if she bought my supplies too soon. That was torture having to wait. But I would use the wait time to think about how I wanted to organize my supplies and work in the coming year: supply box? trapper keeper? binder? matching notebook and folder for each class? notebook v. loose leaf paper? college v. wide rule? (always college), was I gonna use highlighters or color pens to highlight this year? etc. … So many decisions! So I’d make a list, a plan, write it all down… So I was ready for July 15 or Aug. 1 (or whatever date my mom said I had to wait for).

    So, anyway, I don’t like summer.

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    • katie August 4, 2012, 10:30 am

      your a freak. lol

      i used to get excited about shopping for school supplies too, though. i actually STILL have un-used notebooks that i bought for school, because i always bought too many of them, because they were awesome and had princesses or hello kitty or kittens on them or something. so now i use them for my notes when i do wedding cakes, and so i show up to wedding consults with a disney princess notebook. its pretty badass, i love it. haha

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    • Moneypenny August 5, 2012, 4:55 am

      Ok, I totally LOVED going school supply shopping too!!! It was my favorite thing to do to go to Target or Kmart or Office Depot and stock up on new supplies in the weeks before school started.

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    • Clare August 5, 2012, 5:07 am

      I’m in grad school and school supply shopping is still my favorite part of September! I love getting a new planner and filling in my schedule, everyone’s birthday’s, etc. A new year always feels like a fresh start to be more organized and more efficient… even if it doesn’t always work out that way.

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  • lemongrass August 4, 2012, 10:10 am

    In my hometown there is a river that starts out of town and meets the ocean pretty close to downtown. At the end there is a park where lots of people gather to swim and hang out. When I was a teenager my friends and I would tube down the river and it was always so peaceful and fun. I haven’t done it in years and every time I visit my parents I think about it. Hopefully this summer my husband and I will get a chance to go. I don’t think he’s ever gone tubing which is a crying shame!

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    • Addie Pray August 4, 2012, 10:28 am

      Oh that sounds like a lot of fun! Can I join you and your husband?

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      • lemongrass August 4, 2012, 7:26 pm

        Absolutely! DW meetup on the river???

  • Kerrycontrary August 4, 2012, 11:45 pm

    I grew up in a town with an amusement park and a huge ampitheater. Sound travels easily there, so you can always hear the roar of a roller coaster along with the faint screams. At least once a week you could hear a concert travel across town. Dave Matthews, Aerosmith, etc…I miss sitting out on my parents back porch hearing that. During summers in college I could always see the most amazing sunsets from my apartment balcony. In france it stayed light until 10pm so I could see the sunset about the time I was going to bed…I guess my summer staple right now is going to the farmers market every sunday and really enjoying good, simple, local food.

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  • Laura Hope August 5, 2012, 7:04 am

    Wendy, if you ever move to Westchester (common after the second child comes along), we have PLENTY of cicadas day and night. There’s almost always a hum in the summer. And we have plenty of lightning bugs….and rabbits…and chipmunks..and sometimes a coyote or a fox. And it’s only 30 minutes from Manhattan by train.

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  • bittergaymark August 5, 2012, 9:50 am

    I miss the wild and crazy carefree summers of my youth… Those endless months up at the lake cabin. Swimming, sailing or waterskiing all day long — then slinging beer and pizza to the masses at Zorbaz late into the night… With a drunken three a.m. pontoon ride to the island to follow… Wake up. Repeat. Wake up. Repeat. Wake up. Repeat.

    Those were the days my friend. I thought they’d never end.

    Yeah. It’s a real bitch when you look back and realize that — despite your best efforts — life REALLY did peak at, say, 21. Yep, it’s been all downhill ever since.

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  • Caris August 5, 2012, 7:54 pm

    I miss the summers at the beach, I haven’t gone in like 6 years and I definitely need it. We used to go every summer to Valeria del Mar for about 2 weeks, and it was so nice. It was not a very popular place at the time so it was not over-flooding with people. It was so nice and peacful. I miss doing crosswords and reading at the beach. I miss the sound and smell of the sea.
    Maybe I get lucky and I get to go to the beach next summer, probably not to Valeria del Mar since they are planning to sell the tiny apartment that we had there :(.

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  • theattack August 6, 2012, 2:04 am

    I miss having a big yard. Growing up I always thought it sucked so hard living with my parents in a rural area with nothing to do. I brooded my summers away, wishing I could be in a city and go to the Warped Tour (haha). Now that I’m grown, I’m in a city with lots to do, but none of it compares to sitting out on the patio from morning to the middle of the night, only going inside for fresh lemonade. My parents have a huge yard, a very large garden, and a swimming pool. I miss using their yard for bottlerocket wars, water balloon/gun fights, catching lightning bugs, chasing the dog and then spraying him with the garden hose, running through the sprinklers, volleyball, campfires, grilling, you name it. I miss helping my mom can all the green beans and tomatoes, and I miss having freshly picked squash for dinner every single night. I can’t have a real grill in my apartment, and I certainly can’t run around or do much of anything interesting in it. I can’t have a slip-n-slide. I can’t catch frogs. Never would have thought that the “lame” summers with my family were actually pretty high living. I absolutely can’t wait to have a yard of my own outside the city limits. No fences, plenty of space, and no neighbors right in the backyard.

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  • bethany August 6, 2012, 1:48 pm

    I miss being outside from 9am-9pm every day, running around the neighborhood barefoot and playing with all my friends.
    I miss my mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches, and I miss swimming in my friend’s pool.
    i miss bikerides, sunshine, laughter, friends…

    I had an awesome childhood, and being a kid ruled. It was a really special time for me.

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