Joanne of Plainfield asks, Why does Chicago winter seem to last a lifetime, yet summer passes in a blink of an eye?
Time bends to our anticipation.
In Chicago, summer is the jailbreak. The vaults of our being are unlocked and thrown open. We squint into the treasured season.
Summer is the bursting of the emotional dam where we are free to roam under the sun and sit under the stars.
There are cities in this country where a person’s mental faculties are dulled by the monotony of blissful sunny days.
We attack summer like a starving man tears into a cheeseburger.
We embrace summer like a toddler finding her kitten.
Winter comes calling early. Hat in hand. Shyly. As if to say, not to worry; this is just a dusting with barely freezing temperatures. As if winter knows how quickly we close the door.
How fiercely we resist that first rush to the thermostat. How many conversations of comfort begin we cannot turn the heat on yet.
As soon as Halloween is over, the Weber Charcoal Grill and the garden furniture go into the garage and we start taking steps. We unpack blankets. We start matching gloves. We locate the scraper for the car. We search for the one knit cap that isn’t too dorky. And everything changes. For the better part of a half a year, we crave the warmth of indoors and our life becomes a series of short excursions from our front door to the car.
We try to hurry spring. We lovingly slide new plants into cold soil long before the last frost.
All I know is that XRT used to schedule The XRT Rock and Roll Fireworks for Memorial Day Weekend because we had an unwavering faith that the end of May deserved a hint of summer. And every damn year, the wind would come off the lake and we would huddle together like penguins.
The cruelty of summer is its brevity.
The melancholy of summer is our wistful memory of it.
So let us revolt against the tyranny of the wind chill and the snow shovel.
Let us punish winter for lingering longest in our ballparks.
We take our revenge at barbecues and block parties.
In New Orleans, Fat Tuesday lasts a day.
In Chicago we are drunk with summer for 3 good months. Our streets are swollen with unchained youth. Our lakefront paths are squeezed with bikers sweating thru spandex. And yes, we will wait for a table outside. No. We don’t care how long the wait is. As long as can order appetizers before the first snow.
Just seat us in your patio amid the vines and the tiny lights and tell us about your cocktail specials because a strong drink will always taste better with a warm breeze rustling the eyelashes. A margarita will always be more refreshing on the front steps of a Chicago bungalow.
This desperation for summer drives us into Lake Michigan even though we don’t where this lake has been.
Why does summer seem to pass in the blink of an eye? Because those precious months get whittled by thunderstorms and mosquitos. Some days we invite heresy with the phrase, it’s too hot.
Because our jobs make us spectators of the soft parade.
Because we know the perfect days are few and the winter days invite the darkness.
So we know a summer day is best spent in the moment and we believe a summer night should last forever.
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