I’m no doctor, but I’m about as close as you can get. And as a qualified liberal arts major, I recommend you take a week off work, and drive through our part of the country. You don’t need a reason, just visit.
Avoid interstates, take old highways. Cut through Tennessee, Georgia, or Mississippi. And do it as soon as you can.
Because right now, our azaleas are blooming.
A few days ago, we drove the length of Alabama. We saw so many azaleas we got dizzy. Red ones, pink ones, white ones. From Huntsville to Mobile. Have you ever smelled Azaleas? They have the distinct aroma of weekends, sweet tea, seersucker, and baseball mitts, all tossed together.
While you’re passing through, visit a ballpark. Every visitor should see a Little League game. Parents in the stands will be shouting phrases, like, “Y’all boys show some hussle, now!” Which is always followed by a slow, firm handclap.
I once watched a game outside McKenzie, Alabama, on a homemade baseball diamond. The makeshift park was in a peanut field. The batting fence was chicken wire, lit by temporary construction lights. No bleachers, only vehicles parked in a semi-circle. Families reclining on Pontiac hoods.
No uniforms. Red shirts versus white shirts.
After the game, we ate homemade ice cream on a porch. Not store-bought ice cream, but the hand-churned kind that melts too fast—which contains an ingredient known to stimulate gossip.
“Did you hear?” someone’s aunt said, with ice cream on her chin. “So-And-So bought his wife a new Mercedes.”
“NEW?” another remarked.
“Well, I heard his SECRETARY is pregnant. Maybe that’s why his…”
“Oh, Mildred. You oughta be ashamed.”
Yes she should. But she’s not.
Because there’s something about summer that intoxicates her. It makes everyone behave strange. It makes kids play in front yards. It makes the sun go down at eight. It makes dogs lazy, and teenagers kiss.
The whole world is blossoming. And I never used to care as much about it before. I do now. I’m changing, I suppose. I don’t know why weddings make me cry, or why children seem so much wiser.
The older I get, the more sorry I am for how concerned I become about all the wrong things. Like myself. But then along comes summer.
Look at those azaleas.