When every fingernail on both of my hands has broken, I know it for sure: summer is over. It happens to me every year over a two or three-day period. It’s a physical thing; parts of me grow brittle and fall off. Long before the leaves ever change to yellow or orange, my body knows: autumn is in the house.
There may be a rogue “warm day” where the temperatures skyrocket into the 70s. Children put on their shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts. Folks celebrate, go for bike rides and walks in the park. And while I, of course, appreciate the warmth, the glow, the sun in my eyes, I know it is all an elaborate ruse.
The corn has been harvested. My clematis has withered and turned brown. And because I am perpetually cold, I am the first to pull out the winter bin, which holds all the hats and scarves and gloves. And once this curly-haired girl puts her hat on, it stays on.
My closest friends know this about me – that I wear hats for about half of the year – but I have to explain myself to each new batch of fall students.
I tell them that I am a summer girl, and while I love the change of seasons – apple picking, pumpkin carving, Halloween and snow-skiing – deep in my bones, I will forever long for those years in New Orleans, Louisiana, where summer was eternal and stretched well into November, sometimes beyond.
I tell them that every boy I ever really loved I met in the summer, and it is hard for me to let go of the sun and heat of my youth; that each year, like some weird woman disguised as a tree, I actually feel myself growing a little older, that instead of rings around my trunk to reflect my age, I collect wrinkles around my eyes. Each September, I lose a little of my fashizzle, my sparkle, my shine. It comes back. (It always comes back. It just goes underground and hibernates with the raccoons and the bears for a few months.)
Some of them claim to understand.
(Some of them tell me there is medication I can take.)
Some of them tell me summer isn’t over yet, and that there are sure to be plenty of pretty, warm days ahead.
I don’t care what the calendar says.
My fingernails don’t lie.
How do you know when summer is really over? Are you ready to let it go?
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