Summer’s Here!

Since y’all probably know me pretty well by this point, you won’t be surprised to learn that my favorite season is summer. The solstice was on June 20th already , so now my favorite season’s officially here. I’m not as excited as I used to get about it back when I was a kid, but, let’s face it, this isn’t gonna be a normal summer. I hope it’ll be at least more normal than spring was. I’m tired of hearing about the ‘new normal’, but the fact is that there’s a lot of new normal we’re gonna need to get used to…like getting a haircut in a mask and wondering if the stylist is gonna be able to cut around your ears properly.

Summer means three of my favorite things in the world: baseball, swimming and ice cream. I know you can have all those things when it’s not summer: baseball season starts in the spring and ends in the fall (that is if you’re lucky), in California you can swim year round (plus we had indoor pools back home), and nothing goes better on Thanksgiving apple pie than a scoop of vanilla ice cream (that’s something Dad got me doing; I ought to tell Allan about it one of these years.) Still, all three are better when the days are long and the weather’s warm.

I don’t know what the heck baseball season is gonna be like this year. It looks like the Player’s Association and the League have struck a deal for a 60-game season to start later this month, with the games to be played in empty stadiums. That doesn’t sound like the real thing to me: you need the crowd to inspire you to play well. I told y’all already a couple posts ago that I’ve played in almost empty stadiums. It sucks. And I’m talking about almost empty small ballparks in the South…not empty huge MLB ballparks like Dodger Stadium.

Keaton says I should be grateful that we’re gonna have any kind of a baseball season, but I’m not so sure. What’s the point of a 60-game season when a real championship is won after you’ve gotten yourself and your team through a marathon 162-game season? (Of course, what’s the point of a championship when the Astros still get credit for 2017…) Baseball’s a game of strategy, and a big part of that strategy is getting your team through a very long season. The game rewards teams that know how to pace themselves and peak at the right time. I don’t know what’s gonna become of that if there are only two months of baseball before the playoffs start.

At least the other two mainstays of my summers will be normal. I even have more options than usual when it comes to swimming. The pool at Brookside (that’s where we play softball) probably won’t be opening up anytime soon, but the pools at Lucas’ and Travis’ houses are open for business. True, Travis still isn’t living at home, so I can’t rightly go over and ask his parents if I can play in their pool…but the Andrews know me pretty well by now, and last summer already to let me use the pool even when Lucas was away at baseball camp. From what I can tell, the only one of the Andrews who really uses the pool is Lucas, and he’s been swimming laps like a motherfucker since the quarantine started. We try not to be in the pool at the same time when I’m over there (but we figure the chlorine can kill COVID-19 just as well as one of those clorox wipe things), so we usually race by the stopwatch. I can still beat him (okay…sometimes) at sprints, but, if it’s a longer race, he kicks my ass every time. If he wasn’t my pupil and I wasn’t proud of him, I’d probably hate him lol. But I think I can take at least a little of the credit for what a good athlete Lucas has become.

Of course the best pool I know of in Southern California is the one up at Justen’s house in Santa Barbara with the mosaic bottom and the deck that looks out over the ocean. Justen wants Joyce to come up and play bridge and Luke wants me to come up and play in the water…but there’s still social distancing to be worried about. Justen’s afraid of a big gathering, although Luke keeps telling him all he needs are 3 bridge players and me to keep him busy while everyone else is playing cards. That’s only 4 guests, and it was looking like that would be okay…only now it doesn’t again. The Governor’s made it clear that all gatherings are prohibited, so me and Joyce are gonna have to wait a while before we get invited up to Santa Barbara. I hope it won’t be too long. Luke tells me that Justen’s found a way to play bridge via Zoom, but he says he hates it and would just as soon play the bridge game he’s got on his phone. Luke promises me we’re gonna be the first people Justen invites, which will be awesome. Luke’s one of the best swimming buddies I’ve ever had…and I can’t wait to have strawberries romanoff again lol.

Y’all might wonder when my love affair with water started. (I know, I know, this is starting to sound like that Brad Paisley song…) The answer is when I was very young. There’s a public pool in Maryville, and an even nicer one in Alcoa, the next town over, and Mom and Dad took me there one day when I was 3 while Elizabeth was getting swimming lessons. Dad decided to give me a try in the pool…to see if I was gonna be scared and not let go of the wall…and it turned out that I took to it like, well, like a duck to water. From what they tell me, I could float naturally, and started dog paddling practically the minute I hit the water. Only thing is that I cried when they tried to pull me out of the pool when it was time to go home. I don’t remember it too clearly, but I’ve heard the story often enough. Anyway, from then on it was like what it would be when I discovered baseball: the trick was getting me out of the water, not into it. They signed me up for swimming lessons and pretty soon I was swimming all the way to the deep end and back again…and pretty soon after that I was winning kiddie trophies.

Gardner and Turner loved the water too, so we spend plenty of time in the summer in the local pools. Gardner and I would race like crazy whenever we were both in the water together, although I was the stronger swimmer and usually won. But it wasn’t all racing: in my world, swimming pools aren’t just for swimming. In fact, swimming a bunch of laps by myself is almost as boringass as going for a run. Swimming’s always been a group thing, and it’s no fun being in a pool if you can’t goof off in the water some.

I won quite a few swimming trophies when I was younger, but I gave up swimming competitively when I got to high school and Mom made me choose no more than two sports to play. Maybe I should have gone in for swimming rather than football, especially as Sumter talked me out of playing football senior year, but football can be so dang fun to play and, yeah, there was a lot of status attached to being on the football team. If I had it to do all over again maybe I’d of made swimming my second sport, although the best would have been if Mom had let me play three sports like some kids got to. Still, maybe it’s good that I kept swimming as a recreational sport so I’d have a way to unwind.

And just because I gave up swimming competitively doesn’t mean that I don’t get competitive when I swim. Dad may have taught me to be a good loser, but I still hate to lose . Just ask Lucas what I get like when he beats me in the pool lol.

Mom may have been the one to make me cut down on sports in high school, but she was also the one responsible for giving me my first taste of ice cream. She stayed home with us until Cordelia started the 1st grade, so she had to keep us entertained during the summers. One really hot day when I was 2½, she gave me a little bite of chocolate ice cream, just to see how I liked it. My answer – so the story goes – was instantaneous: “more!!”.

So I was sold on ice cream then and there. Y’all know I can eat it every day (and I pretty much do), but there was an unwritten rule in the Block family that you should only have ice cream once a day, even in the summer. On really hot days when we passed an ice cream truck, sometimes me, Gardner and Turner would get a strawberry shortcake bar or a bomb pop (Turner liked those, although me and Gardner were always telling him that it was just a glorified popsicle and popsicles are lameass) and not tell our parents. I don’t think we’d of been penalized with no ice cream after dinner if they found out, but that wasn’t a risk I was gonna take lol.

My favorite flavor of ice cream is strawberry, followed by pistachio. My favorite way to eat ice cream is a strawberry/strawberry sundae: a couple scoops of strawberry with strawberry topping, whipped cream, no nuts and a cherry. (I love the cherry dipped in the whipped cream. It’s not a sundae without one.) Don’t get me wrong: I love hot fudge sundaes, and I seriously loved Moo-on Pie sundaes they made in Hickory, but there’s nothing like a strawberry/strawberry sundae.

It doesn’t need to be a sundae for me to love it, though. Sometimes I just like my ice cream plain, and sometimes I’ll go in for a bigass root beer float. That may be the best way to enjoy ice cream on a super super hot day. Even better than a root beer float, though, is a cherry soda float with chocolate ice cream. It may sound grossass, but y’all should try it some day: cherry and chocolate is an amazing combination.

So there are still things to look forward to, even if it’s not gonna be a normal summer. It’s scary how COVID cases are on the increase…but I’m not gonna get into that. This is supposed to be a post about my favorite season, not everything that’s fucked up in the world.

Have a great summer, everyone. And, when things get tough, just remember: there’s always gonna be ice cream.

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