Despite forecasts or whatever any calendar says, today marks the last day of summer. Tomorrow is the beginning of classes and my last “first day of school.” Good riddance.
I’ve never liked summer. I never went to sleep-away camp. I don’t like the temperatures; I don’t like the clothes you have to wear to accommodate for the temperatures. I don’t like sleeping in; I don’t like sitting idle and wasting time. And I’ve never enjoyed the pool.
Like most things in upper- middle-class suburbia, the country clubs in Kansas City — admittance, social perks and, consequently, your enjoyment — are about who you know. Homestead Country Club, the pool of my childhood, was the lesser of all evils, situated in the more modest Prairie Village and holding membership for all my friends’ families.
But I just never got into it. Instead of painting my face like some spirited mermaid freak, I got stomachaches and cried before every swim meet in my single season of competition, despite a killer backstroke. Genetics blessed me with the body of a child that would later bloom into a perfectly womanly figure but, for the time being, would belong to a girl that didn’t feel as comfortable running around the deck in a swimsuit as all the other preteens who had yet to bud into puberty.
I never became a pool rat — never quite became comfortable showing up alone, never quite became comfortable assuming I would have friends there to play with. Despite who I knew — everyone — I couldn’t let myself enjoy it like every other carefree kid under the face of the blistering summer sun. The almost-22-year-old me would scold the 11-year-old me for stubbornly foregoing a tan in the name of insecurity, but so it goes.
It’s funny to me, then, that the best summer — the best two months of my life — were in a place where I knew almost no one. There were no pools, but there were plenty of places to let my insecurity shine. It would have been easy to walk the streets of Chicago like I had a beach towel wrapped around me. It would have been safer and less sweaty to sit in my garden apartment and cry of a stomachache instead of exploring. It would have been easy to sit and wait for comfort in my surroundings, to wait for friends to magically materialize, before being brave.
But haven’t you heard? “In the end, the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself.” (Thanks, Weepies.) If only someone had told me that when I was 11; it would have made for more entertaining summer vacations. But let’s be honest: It probably would have been lost on me; I’ve learned by now that advice is only helpful when you’re ready to accept it.
A friend played me a song on his radio show on Friday. “Summer Girl” by Arp: instrumental, experimental and not at all my style. Still, he said it was apropos. “Come back,” he said.
I’ll be back, but it won’t just be for a summer. I’m no one’s summer girl. I’m just a girl who fell in love with a city during the hottest months of the year.
In the meantime, bring on autumn. I could use a page turn.