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.