Columns, Opinion

BERICK: The summer of my discontent

I skipped fall last year ‘- I was abroad, and New England autumn doesn’t happen on the subcontinent ‘- and then all of Boston skipped out on this summer. So when it began to snow Sunday, I had a few reservations. I don’t want to cry global warming, though I have cried about global warming. My feelings about seasons are actually rather conservative. I’m talking Norman Rockwell, Midwestern, small town convictions ‘- and I’m sticking to them. Fall has pop art displays of bright leaves, winter needs oceans of snow, spring is permitted a few clich’eacute;s and summer ought to drip from behind the knee and burn the nose and that’s how it should stay.

I’m attached to these conventions for good reason. I know what happens when they go awry. This summer was not my best. I blame, of course, the weather. I swore I would never complain of the heat again, and because I really excel at complaining, this was quite an oath. This summer in Boston looked like no summer I’d ever seen. It was March long into June. In a piece of reverse irony the informal skate park in the parking lot behind what used to be Marty’s Liquor turned into a swimming pool. I know because I went to sleep listening to it fill up with rain and woke to the same sound. The flowers my roommate planted with a turn of anachronistic naturalism died on their windowsills. The Good Humor truck did drive down my street once, but as soon as I was handed my soft serve twist ‘- my official summer fare ‘- it disintegrated in the umpteenth downpour of the week. I wasted plenty of money, not just on cups of steaming coffee and hot chocolate through June, but also on T fares to avoid the sodden streets. Not as though the climate in the T was any more cheery this summer: Any time I came within earshot of a conversation conducted in English, I would find that the discussion was of the weather.

It was as if all of Boston was plunged back into a formalism of the Victorian age. When visiting friends, my coat was taken at the door, I was offered tea or coffee and then there was the parlor conversation: ‘What dreadful weather we’ve been having?!’ (Or perhaps, sometimes the wording was different, but the multiple punctuation marks remained.) Even in June, women covered their ankles and wore long sleeves. The shoes I wore ‘- and let me specify they were shoes, more or less, and not sandals ‘- turned into a sort of stained, sidewalk grey. Actually, everything turned into a sort of stained, sidewalk grey. To better understand such gloom you may want to visit the bathrooms in Mugar Memorial Library. The leaves may have grown in green and cheerful but most likely they rotted on the trees. I never checked. Looking up would have given me a face full of rain. On my way to brush my teeth in the morning I would walk past a roommate’s computer displaying the weather report, which always showed clouds like flocks of sheep. There were inevitably seven fleecy grey clouds accompanied by chilly numerals 54 and maybe 62.’ I lived in the raincoat I had bought for a monsoon a hemisphere away.

My roommate from southern Texas says she honored the great American school system’s obsession with construction paper and autumn-colored crayons despite living in basically a different biome. The curriculum included fall foliage, even though the first time she saw a tree change freshman year, she thought there was something terribly wrong.’ I’ve recently been even more alarmed by this possibility. I know strangers aren’t kind; I depend on the seasons. When this one gets stale, grades slip, plumbing backs up, your major begins to seem like a bad idea and then the season changes. It is akin to the relief of changing out of a sweatshirt you’ve dribbled breakfast on, but hundreds of times more satisfying.

When I was growing up you didn’t even think about snow until after finger turkeys. Oct. 18th was way before finger turkeys. Finger turkeys, in case you’ve lost sight of everything important about your upbringing, were those renditions of the Thanksgiving bird-pre-slaughter-made in the rough shape of a child’s palm, once yours and mine. When it began to snow on Sunday I mourned for my lost season but also because I know I cannot categorize my life into predictable, construction paper projects any more. When asked what I am planning to do next year I often avoid the question. Like pregnant women, the life of a college senior seems fair game for commentary. I usually just say I’d like to move west, to California. Eventually, however, I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that I’m setting up my winter years will be winter-less.’ ‘

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