Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day as a sign of summer? Not for me.

Summer may not begin officially until June 21, but Memorial Day has become a way to mark the beginning of that season in the United States. Or, was.

When and where I was growing up* there were strongly held and near-universally shared assumptions about what would automagically shift from gauche to proper to herald the start of summer.

In the food department, this meant nothing would be charcoal grilled before the Memorial Day weekend. Neither watermelon nor corn on the cob would show up on either paper or Melmac plates before then. (Don't know about Melmac? Check out this Pinterest board featuring melamine dishes.)

As for clothing, wearing white shoes, sandals, linen, and/or seersucker while toting a straw handbag before Memorial Day constituted a significant fashion faux pas.

Times have changed.

Modern shipping practices make summer produce available year-round. Gas grills make it possible for anyone to immolate perfectly good steak during a snowstorm. Fashion? Who even knows what that means anymore. Should come as no surprise that I've created my own idiosyncratic way to mark summer's arrival.

Nearly 30 years ago, during an especially dismal point in my life, I splurged on a pair of special earrings, special because they made me smile. I know summer is here when I suddenly experience a powerful felt need to wear them.

I don't remember what these earrings cost, but only that I could not afford them. I don't remember when I bought them, but always how summer sunlight streamed through the shop window; remarkable when you factor in my abiding dislike for sunlight.

I've never bothered to suss why these earrings consistently generate such delight. I suppose it has something to do with the combination of glass beads -- their color, juxtaposition, lightness; how they sound if I swiftly turn my head.

What I do know is that they've become my personal sign of summer having nothing to do with Memorial Day weekend, although I felt compelled to wear them yesterday.

*Growing up refers to chronological age, not psycho-spiritual maturation, in the New York metropolitan area.


  1. Meredith, this brought back memories of my childhood also. In Canada we celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday, better known now as May 24 (pronounced two four) weekend, often on the same weekend as Memorial Day weekend. According to my mother you had to wear your winter coat until May24th because it magically turned hot that day. The rules for white shoes, etc. applied as well. No one bothers with those rules anymore but we all joke about it. I think your earrings are a beautiful indication of summer - no wonder you splurged on them and what joy they have brought you every year. Perhaps it was a wise purchase and not a splurge. Enjoy your long weekend!

  2. Love the earrings, and I totally get how such an urge marks the change of season.

    I didn't comment on your fish dream post, but I did read it and was struck by it. The images stay with me.

    I know you love perennials. Do you choose shade varieties given your dislike of sunlight? In any event, I am smiling as I picture you wearing your earrings.

  3. MIT's Sherry Turkle would call your earrings 'evocative objects.' "Totems that serve as a springboard for identity or for reflection or for thinking."

    Or springboards for summer.

    Love it.

  4. This is a small s sacrament if I ever saw one... so beautiful, so enfleshed, so real. So YOU!


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