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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Summer? It depends where you live



While not a native Floridian, I have now lived here for more than 10 years. Navigating my summer days Mom_sunburn between afternoon thunderstorms, heat indices and cones of uncertainty, I have noticed a distinct and not-so subtle difference between Northern and Southern Summers.

The first obvious discrepancy to note is the actual start date and duration of the season of summer. In Florida, it begins roughly mid-February and lasts well into November. In my hometown of Detroit? July 25 from noon to 4 p.m. And you better not make plans because it will rain.

Even the school year won’t give you a clue as to when summer actually begins. Just as we here in the south have finished our Fourth of July barbecues, our neighbors to the north are having their end of school celebrations. But don’t get too comfortable in that lawn chair because before the waffle print disappears from your thighs you’ll be back at Bealls doing your Back-To-School shopping before the sun sets on Bastille Day.

We even travel differently. Most of my old friends from up north come down to Florida to enjoy the weather. Most of my friends down here head up north to enjoy the weather.

I spent my summers as a child in Northern Michigan around the 45th parallel. Not only was this the geographical latitude, but the forecast low temperature in August. When people described the lake water with the phrase, “as warm as bath water,” everyone instinctively knew that they were referring to tubs for polar bears and Emperor penguins, not humans with body core temperatures higher than four degrees.

One of our favorite activities was to run through a sprinkler on a lazy afternoon. If that suggestion was made down here today you’d get a citation from the city for watering on your non-designated day and a prescription for antibiotics for all of that reclaimed water you inadvertently swallowed.

I try to warn my northern friends that it’s a different sun down here. They cite the physical impossibility of this and lather on a -22 sunscreen -- something with an SPF so low it actually draws ambient light from floor lamps and traffic signals directly to the epidermis. But you can’t really blame them as dermatologists only treat frostbite and exhaust burns from snowmobiles in northern states.

So if you are having trouble making any last minute summer plans to or with anything north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you may want to consider the language barrier. Much like the terms, “iced tea,” “palmetto bugs” and “homeowner’s insurance,” the word “summer” has a different translation in other parts of the country.

-- Tracey Henry, the Suburban Diva

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:02am]


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