Tonight, I hear crickets, or possibly peepers, through a screen window. There is a memory I always go back to when it is undeniably summer.
When I was eight, we lived in Massachusetts. In the summertime, it was not unusual for the temperature and humidity to hang out in the 90’s for days, weeks. We lived across the street from the murky town lake in a down-on-its-heels house (valiantly spruced up by my mom). The house was nothing fancy, but it had a breakfast nook with lots of windows, and thus lots of screens. The breakfast nook was the coolest place to be on a hot summer night.
I’m thinking of this particular night because, though it’s nowhere near as hot now as it was on that summer night 47 years ago, I am up well past my bedtime as I write this. That was also true of the night I’m remembering. During the school year, my parents reliably got their children to bed at a decent hour, and even when summertime loosened those rules, we tended not to stay up much past dark. But on this night, we pushed the bounds further than usual.
It was so hot no one could imagine heading to bed. It was so hot my normally modest father sat at the breakfast nook table (formica top, vinyl chairs) in his t-shirt and maybe even boxer shorts. I cannot impress upon you enough how hot it would have needed to be for my dad to be so – under-dressed. We milled around, restless with the heat, four children ages 3-9, and our parents. At least while we were upright, the air – such as it was – had a chance to touch most of our surface area. Once we went to bed, however, any part of us that touched the mattress couldn’t benefit from the measly coolness of night.
The memory is set here, in the breakfast nook. It is thoroughly dark outside. We have a light on and we hear the smack of moths throwing themselves at the screens in an effort to reach the light. My mom decides since we are all awake she should cut open a cantaloupe that has been in the refrigerator. I trail after her into the kitchen. She cuts open the cantaloupe. It’s the first time I’ve seen a cantaloupe at this stage of preparation. I am stunned to see it has a slimy nest of seeds at its center. How did I not know this before?
My mom neatly spoons out the seeds and cuts the orange flesh into crescents. She cuts the rind from the fruit, eventually slicing the fruit into smaller edible pieces that still rest on their respective crescent rinds. In these days, we salt the cantaloupe before we eat it. We each have our own; we eat the pieces with a fork. It is the Platonic ideal of refreshing.
That is all. It is summertime. The night is hot. There is sweetness and salt. We are a family.