I’ve never known heat like a Texas summer. Humid, blistering, melt-like-Velveeta-in-the-microwave heat. It’s a heat that makes everyone irritable. Tempers flare, words come out harsher than intended, calm somehow deserts everyone. Babies cry, toddlers tantrum and teenagers’ eyes nearly roll out of their heads. It’s a friction-causing heat.
Summer on the Mediterranean can feel just as peel-your-clothes-off hot, but there’s a laziness to it, a lethargy. Instead of a fire waiting for fuel, it’s a lounge in the sauna. The heat feels the same, but you enjoy the torture of it. Summer along the sea feels like the heat of an oven and then nighttime brings the crisp, cooling of a pan plunged into water.
In Michigan, there are stifling days, to be sure. But you’ve waited so many months for that heat, you’re almost grateful for every bead of sweat, every tan line, every sunburn that needs to be treated with aloe that sticks to your sheets and your shirt. Summers in Michigan are what the whole state holds its breath for, impatiently hoping for beach days at the lake, the opportunity to hop off a pontoon and cool down, to head Up North. It’s a break from blacktop streets and the endless drone of the window air conditioner that spends less time cooling you and more time reminding you of lake water you’re not yet in – swimsuits unworn, summer just outside … waiting, waiting.
Summer in the southwest is like a hair dryer turned on full blast right into your face. The sweat begins at your forehead and temples and has already dried before it can even reach your cheeks or your nose. That dry heat always felt surprising to me, like the climate was trying to desiccate me into human jerky. It’s disarming and somehow feels more violent. If Texas is trying to boil you alive in humidity, the Southwest is baking you to death.
When we lived in Canada, the summer always felt half-formed, never fully realized. A few days that promised doldrum days of heat ahead and then, long sleeves were back on for a few days. Then again, a few sweaty, outdoor-eating-on-the-terrace days, and just when I’d got all my shorts organized and folded in the drawers, it was time to take the sweaters and jeans out from where they’d been most recently stored. A few days later and I couldn’t imagine why I even owned a tank top!
On the British Isles, the warm weather months feel much the same. Glorious sun-filled days flattened between weeks of relentless rain or gloomy, cloud-filled, gray skies that seemingly have never heard of holidays and picnics. But then suddenly, the rain would stop, the sun would peek out and the whole world seemed to be filled with green. A wonderland of green with pink flowers and purple blossoms, orange petals and a golden sun in the sky. It’s easy to forgive England for gray storm clouds when the sunshine days are so friendly and warm, an embrace from a friend one doesn’t see often enough.
I’ll soon be heading to Spain with my son for our summer holidays there. I can already feel the ice in my sangria hitting my teeth at the Plaça del Catalunya and smell the SPF 500 that I’ll be spraying on a toddler at the beach in Costa Brava. It will be a brief reprieve from the Texas furnace, but I’m sure we’ll enjoy every second of that bright, Spanish sunshine.