Don’t expect me to write flowery odes to summer. My idea of a good summer day when the temperatures are sky high is going indoors and staying there – in the air condition. My walks in the park are curbed during the scorchers. I picture scary scenes that I might collapse and find myself being doused with cold water by strangers. Or, I’d open my eyes and find a bear sniffing me.
Conversations in my house are limited. There’s nothing worth discussing. Every subject ends up an argument and as heated as the temperatures outside. My cat,Sissy, looks up at me as if saying, ‘Hey! I’m wearing a fur coat! You’re not, f’r God’s sake! Turn up that air conditioner! And, be quick about it.’ Then, there’s the question, what can I make for dinner? Soups are out. So are stews that steam up the kitchen. Opening the oven for baking anything is out. No! There’s only rabbit food, consisting of salads, sandwiches or a variety of omelets. That’s when my husband looks down at his plate and says, ‘Isn’t that what I had for lunch?”
The only beings ecstatic with steamy days are the zucchini, tomato plants, cucumbers and Vlita greens that smile as Bill stands by the fence, grinning with profound satisfaction at his works of art.
At about this time every year, my daughter, Sophia, usually makes plans to go blueberry picking with me and her two kids. “It’s too hot!” I remind her. She looked at me, horrified, as if I just informed her that Lord & Taylor has cancelled her credit card. “We’ll go early in the morning, Ma! It’ll be cooler. Oh, let’s go!” So, I wore my coolest summer cotton dress, sandals and a straw hat and away we went to south west, New Jersey. Two hours later we arrived and the ol’ farmer we’ve come to know greets us, warmly. ‘It’s hot!” he says, handing each of us a basket and pointing to the fields where blueberries languish, plush and sweet. Granddaughter, Alexandra and I head for the shade of the apple trees and start picking, eating a lot of them as we go on. As I picked berries, my mind pictured day laborers or immigrants, picking beans or potatoes, doing the same thing, under a hot sun, with no drink of water close by, but getting paid for it.
After an hour, or so, we get our baskets weighed and bagged and paid for, then, head for the two hour ride home. In the car, I think about the super market where I get the same blueberries, all neatly packed, with no two hour ride or laboring under a hot sun. Then, I come to realize that the farmer is very clever. He can’t pick all those berries, or, hire workers to do it, so, he has us do it. Only, we’re supposed to think it fun. At home, I take a shower to cool my belabored body, nurse my mosquito bites, and pay the penalty for consuming all those blueberries. At this point, the sofa looks like a piece of heaven. Sissy looks up at me, her expression telling me, ‘Where have you been? I missed lunch – again! Another absence like that and I’m calling the Humane Society, hear?” With a glass of lemon water, I lay back, oblivious to everything; the ringing phone, Bill’s request for iced tea, or the flood in the basement. I don’t care! When I am amply revived, I look at the mountain of blueberries in the colander and wonder what I am going to do with them. I’m off sugar, so no pies. I don’t eat cereals, so no breakfast treats. I call Sophia for advice. She huffs. “Give some to your neighbor.” “What?” I got all flustered. “I sweated, did all that picking and she gets it handed to her like she’s entitled? She was sprawled on her sofa watching T.V. never giving a thought that her senior citizen neighbor was in the fields picking blueberries for a couple of hours? I don’t think so.” After a long think, I decided to freeze them. They’ll, probably, be there for the Christmas treats. The phone rings. It’s Sophia; she wants to go apple picking. Oh, yeah? “Your call is important to us. Por Espaniol, press numero uno. For English, please hang up and try again in Septemeber.”