There are a number of us who are not fond of summer.
We try to dampen our grumpiness for you Summer Lovers. We don’t want to spoil your fun, and yeah, there are some miraculous days/weeks in summer that make me reconsider my allegiance to autumn and winter. Well, in the last week, all the Summer Bummers like myself have come out of the closet to unite and make angry banners that read: THIS FUCKING HEATWAVE IS BULLSHIT.
I believe I may have seen a few Summer Lovers helping with the banners.
We’ve all been stretched a little thin, our patience worn down, our vulnerabilities in sharp relief, so when a tropical ice storm cracked Minnesota’s heat wave with shocking, frigid degrees in the 70s, boasting air you could breathe out instead of simply digesting, well, it made me feel like dancing.
Well, not literally.
‘Live free! Go dance in the rain‘ is one of those things cheerful and judgy Facebook things you read on a distant friend’s wall, possibly invented by some smarmy fourth grade schoolteacher in Peoria creating her ideal life in Photoshop. Meh. Fuck you, Peoria Teacher. Quit judging me.
I’m not really a dancing in the rain kind of guy. I admire it. I appreciate rain. I will even stand it, arms stretched apart, head up and mouth open to and say thank you, God, god, goddess, Great Purple Mermaid, or whoever is listening in the sparkling night.
Thank you for this rain.
I just don’t see the need to cheese it up and introduce jazz hands.
Tonight, under my twinkling-lights gazebo, I listened with pleasure to every falling drop.
After a while, it stopped.
I would not deny myself a walk this first night of parole from humidity’s prison. I am a night walker, making neighbors in an eight block radius part their shades and say, “He’s back. That chubby guy is dance-walking down our street again.”
I have a night routine: walk, milk, brush teeth, read a comic, fall asleep.
I like my night routines because they make me think of growing up. Mom and Dad read to us, not once in a while, but book after book after book, a chapter before bed while we ate homemade cookies and sipped our milk slowly to make it last. How terrible to be out of milk before the chapter ran out. My brother always nursed his longest, and we three were jealous. We brushed our teeth under protest, as protesting was an important bed time tradition, and when the last of the toothbrushers emerged in their pajamas, we knew it was time: Battle for Prayer Bed.
We said prayers every night, all six of us kneeling around the double bed in my sisters’ room or the double bed my brother and I shared. Mom and Dad would initiate the prayers, but we were expected to carry them. We prayed for relatives who died, and those who were injured, and people in rough times. Mom and dad might add a new name and not explain it, adults who hurt in a manner we kids were too young to understand. Our parents wanted us to stay children as long as we could.
It sounds very sweet and holy, and it was. Because of those bed time prayers, those adults and extended family remain locked in my heart.
But as I said: Battle for Prayer Bed.
It was an honor to have prayers at your bedside, the understood value being that after prayers you could fall in bed right away and sleep instantly while everyone else (i.e. the girls) trudged back to their bedroom. To host prayers was to win the bid to host the Olympics.
Our Nightly Olympics.
These days, I have a slightly different tradition.
I put on my headphones and select music to match my mood. I dance-walk to the gas station two blocks away, half-jog some nights because while I know that they close at 11:00 p.m., I rarely manage to leave my home before 10:45. On the way to and from the gas station, I think about Battle for Prayer Bed, and the family who live in my heart.
I arrived at 10:57 tonight and the Mexican janitor in his 60′s, looked up from the mop bucket and said, “You’re the last one. Again.”
I have long stopped apologizing for this shortcoming of mine and now greet him with the same promise: I will deliberately steer clear of mopped areas if I can. I think he actually changed his mopping pattern, anticipating my three or four nights a week arrival. I always buy milk; I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mop there early like he used to. He knows me.
I bought my milk, paid the silent guy with the pompadour, and exited in the dark.
In the magic 50 seconds I spent paying for my milk, the rain poured again. I dashed to the pumps themselves where I spent the next fifteen minutes rocking out, completely dry, while rain beat down on the aluminum pavilion. I’m sure people across the street were at their windows remarking, “The chubby guy is dancing at the gas station tonight.”
During a lull, I waltzed out, confident it could not possibly begin to rain again, because I had decided it was over.
Within a half-block the drizzle was drazzle, the drazzle became a chunky splattering, the splattering a rinse that begat a downpour and I was soaked. Socks and underwear-soaked.
I walked home in the rain, letting it tickle me, thinking of names from my history, Grandma Bernice, Mrs. Volman who lived next door and was never seen alive without a dangling cigarette in her hand. Tall and taciturn, Grandpa Manning. I thought of my mom’s godfather, Joseph Powers, and Uncle Bill, and my godparents who passed away, leaving me a painting of the Last Supper.
I miss the family I grew up with. I made a choice to live in Minneapolis and while I still see them fairly often, I miss them. I’m not in their lives the way I would be if I lived there. They’re not in mine that way either. But still, we’re pretty close on some levels. Earlier this week I texted a graphic description of a bowel movement to my brother, who wrote in reply: “The heat is making you delirious and leading you to think I want to hear about this. That’s the only possible explanation.”
Yeah, well, he’s right, I was delirious with heat this week.
This very evening, cool July invited me to dance in the night and squeak into the gas station at 10:57 p.m. I had even said a prayer on the way over that they would open up and accept me for who I was, tardiness and all.
And I felt jubilation at the freedom to walk and dance, to go for a cold chug of milk and get scowled at by a stranger I know well, and to be loved by parents who never gave up on any of us, who filled my heart with words, well, all of it conspired to fill me with joy.
I felt like dancing.
I danced in the rain tonight, even throwing in some kick line action and jazz hands. You got me, Peoria Teacher. Dancing in the rain is pretty cool. But in a way, I won tonight, too, because tonight I hosted, and all my family came: Mom, dad, sisters, brother, Grandma Hemmer, Uncle Charles. My cousin Kevin.
Tonight, I won the Battle for Prayer Bed.
And now, I shall roll over and fall asleep instantly.