Childhood memories of summer, for me, are soft and lazy. On the northern California coast, summer means fewer rainy days, and the occasional 75-degree afternoon is a good excuse to break out the shorts and the sprinklers. Maybe books and television shows set in almost anywhere else in the country gave me unrealistic expectations of what July and August were supposed to be like for American children. In my town, you ate your popsicles and played your heart out at the beach, even though the water was so cold that it stung, and the wind once you got out was even worse. Our campfire was never big enough to chase away the goosebumps, and our hot dogs were always full of sand.
I’m not complaining. Except for the painful de-sanding that had to take place before we could get back in the car, I loved those days at the beach. I loved everything about summer: the long days, the plum trees and camping by the river. But this year, with my first Ishikawa summer almost over, I finally feel like I know what the season is all about.
Summer in Ishikawa is everything that summer should be. Winter here wasn’t as horrible as some folks at orientation made it out to be, but it was long, and gray, and wet, and so dark that it was hard to believe that I had ever experienced a sunny day. And then suddenly, it was summer. Bright blue skies light up my second story bedroom from 5:00 a.m. until well into the evening, and in spite of the heat, I find it hard to sit still. I sweat in places I didn’t know it was possible to sweat – which is disgusting, but at the same time, it’s like my body is coming back to life, cleaning out all the dust it collected during the winter.
Somehow, it’s strange to me. I find myself eagerly pursuing opportunities to experience “Japanese Summer” things – watching fireworks, wearing a yukata, buying windchimes. And I feel like I have to eat my weight in kakigori (shaved ice) before it goes out of season (a goal soon to be facilitated by my awesome fiance’s purchase of a kakigori machine). What’s being satisfied through all these experiences is something more than my desire to know more about Japan. Somehow, I feel like I’m making something up to the kid me, who never got to experience Summer with a capital “S”.
With less than two weeks left in the month of August, there’s a lot left to do. Grown-up jobs don’t have summer vacations – in fact, my department is busier now than ever. Add moving, cleaning, and summer colds, and my romantic intentions for the season are clearly threatened by the reality of adult life. But that doesn’t make the words of Haruhi Suzumiya any less applicable:「あんな面倒なものはちゃっちゃとやってしまって、残りの夏は心おきなく遊びたおすのよ！」(Rough translation: Finish that shit up, so we can play the heck out of the rest of summer!)