Summertime in the South

It’s hot here! This is the hottest weekend of the year so far. As a girl raised in the South, I am used to heat. Heat, mixed with humidity that seems to dew on your skin the moment you step outside. Heat, mixed with humidity that takes your breath away when you open the door. Heat, mixed with humidity that feels as if you are breathing through a wet cloth.

Summer, in the South, symbolizes the beginning of so many things. It means fresh fried chicken with sliced tomatoes straight off the vine, cucumber salad and cantaloupe dripping its melon nectar to mingle with the vinegar of the salad on your plate.  All purchased that afternoon from the Farmer’s Market. A large shed that held inside its walls the best of Summer: fresh vegetables, watermelons, boiled peanuts. Bushel baskets by the door to place your selected items in as you shopped.  The smell of the sun and warmth, on the vegetables, that had not long come in from the fields.

Not all Sundays, but on some occasions after church we would head to the local family restaurant in town.  A place that served Southern food at its finest! No calorie counting here! Turkey & Dressing is always served on Sundays with a choice of vegetables and fresh yeast rolls. That was usually my choice over ham or fried chicken. That lunch mixed with the Summertime heat would often make you sleepy and an afternoon nap on the hammock would ensue.  

When my grandmother was a child in the South the big meal of the day was eaten at lunch, or as people called it then, “Dinner” and “Supper” was a lighter evening meal of cold lunchtime leftovers, sandwiches or biscuits, grits and frizzled ham.  They lived at the top of a big hill and when my great-grandfather Red would come home for lunch, each child would have a turn during the week riding up the hill with him.

He would place his arm out of the window and help the “rider” onto the foot board, holding onto them with his big worn hands as they gripped the open window frame, they would ride up the hill with their daddy, squealing and laughing all the way as the wind blew through their hair.

For that is the South.  Sweat rolling down your back; ice clinking in glasses as it slowly diffuses into sweet tea. The laughter of gossip carrying over the yard as children swing higher on their swing hung on the boughs of an oak to feel the breeze cool their faces.

Harper Lee described Summertime in the South best, in one of my favorite books, “To Kill A Mockingbird”:

Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum…A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer.

 

I love that line: A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. The days did always seem so much longer when you were little, with one day slipping into the next an endless parade of Summer days. Now, time seems to fly, there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. But, that I suppose is how it should be, there is a time to everything and so there should be a time to rest as the sun comes to its end and our pace slows to match the softness of the moon.

(Peach Truck Image: Re-vamped Allman Bros. Album Cover, Pink Tag & Tape on “To Kill A Mockingbird” Image, The Pugly Pixel, Background on same image: The Graphics Fairy, Farmer’s Market & Palm Tree Images, copyright J. Michie)