View online edition


Summer’s End

This year, September continues a “chunk of childhood” lost to coronavirus rules.

Fran LoBiondo
by Fran LoBiondo

Today was over 90 degrees hot. The forecast is for more of the same. Sometimes you’re the magnifier, sometimes you’re the ant. I feel it every time I walk outside, which is why I only go out in my car.

I was in a chi-chi woman’s clothing shop recently and a woman walked in greeting the owner like an old friend. As I shopped, I overheard their conversation.

“Oh, I love your nails, what color is that?”

“I don’t remember, it’s some kind of light seashell peach. I bought the whole bottle in case I need to go to another spa.”

“So how’s life in Florida? Do you like living down there?”

“I love it. There’s always something going on. You know, you should come down for a visit sometime. You’d enjoy it.”

“Oh, I don’t know. It gets really hot there, doesn’t it?”

“Hmm, hot? I guess it is hot. I go from my air-conditioned house to my air-conditioned car, to the air-conditioned mall. So I don’t really notice.”

Since I was just browsing, not buying, I left the store without hearing the rest of the wastrel’s life story.

But I’m worried. Maybe that’s what I’m turning into.

With the isolation all summer from the epidemic, and the searing heat outside, and the inability to enter stores without covering our faces and feeling unable to breathe, everything seems like a waste of time.

I spent much of my childhood playing in the secluded woods of the Pine Barrens, barefoot, running with my mixed-breed mutt, Jesse. I was utterly unafraid of bugs and stranger danger, and poison ivy. Well, I hated ticks, but we didn’t know about Lyme disease then. I checked Jesse’s coat after we came out of the woods, just hoping he had not picked up any bloodsuckers. Yecch.

The treatment of ticks at that time was to heat up some metal tweezers on the stove, and pick out the insect and then burn it in an ashtray. It was a disgusting practice, sort of like boiling crabs alive, but necessary if you didn’t want to find a little hitchhiker stuck to your person.

It doesn’t make sense, but I did like going crabbing off the bulkhead at Barnegat Bay; in fact I loved pulling up a trap with some big blue claws crawling inside. Getting them out and into a cooler was usually my father’s job. I just didn’t like watching them being cooked. Or eating them.

I got some of my worst sunburns crabbing at the bay, but I had a good time. I cannot remember eating them for dinner even once. It’s a taste I acquired as an adult, and only when prepared by a good cook.

So now it’s September, and to me it means the end of summer. My Mom had six kids, all born in summer, and bracketed between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

When we ran out of birthdays, it was a time to be glum, because we all had to go back to school.

I hope the kids who have been staying home all summer, hearing every day how to avoid germs, will be able to start school soon.

They’ve already lost a big chunk of their childhood to the COVID-19 virus rules. They, and their parents, are begging for their release.

I myself have not run out of birthdays. We still have one in October and one in November. I pray we can all get together and celebrate.

Our daughter, Therese, left for college last month, but she’ll come back for gifts and champagne if it’s at all possible.

Greg will celebrate in October, but he’s about as wantless as he can be. I spend the months before his birthday scouring for gift ideas, and once in a while I get something he likes better than unwrapping the paper it came in.

Therese is great at buying for her brother, because she likes to shop and she is more attuned to Greg.

She has always done her best to compile a wish list for us to give her for her birthday. It seems to us that she can stretch out her celebrations for a month. Like Ramadan, only no fasting.

I don’t mind celebrating her birth because she was the only child of mine who arrived on her due date, not like her brothers, who took 42 weeks to gestate.

Those extra two weeks of waiting left me with serious anxiety and stretch marks down to my knees.

Life Sentences