Summer in the South

The rising humidity has begun its yearly tradition of choking out what breathable cool air there once was like a kudzu vine pulling down an old forgotten barbed wire fence; choruses of, “Lawd it is hot” have begun to swim across the air as men take a break from their chores and wipe the sweat from their brow. A month ago I would have said those choruses are floating on the breeze, but the breezes have hit a brick wall and cease to blow much this time of year. And it’s not even summer yet.

This time of year always reminds me of my great uncles, sitting under a shade tree telling stories in their khakis and long sleeve button up shirts. How they didn’t all die of heat stroke I’ll never understand.I would sit in the cool grass and listen to them; I would hang on every slow word they spoke, the end of each story building with greater suspense with each telling.  Sometimes I wondered if the reason they drew out their syllables so much wasn’t so much because of accent as much as it was atmospheric. Maybe their mouths wanted to move faster than that but the humidity kept the air from leaving their lungs any faster. Whatever the reason, that old southern drawl was music to my ears.

As they told of their depression era childhood, I began to understand how they could bear to sit outside for hours on end in the oppressive heat. When they were children, they no more dreamed of central air conditioning than my dog dreams of being an astronaut. I began to understand they’d been raised at a time when getting outside in the open air was a break from the heat of the house. 

All but one of them is gone now, but those afternoons in the shade will remain forever, as far as I’m concerned. There won’t be a time when I sit in a lawn chair that I don’t think of them. And there won’t be a summer that I don’t wonder about those long sleeved shirts.

 

Eva

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