The Brood: Summertime, and the Living is…Something

By Theresa Weiler

“Today is the longest day of the year,” mused my husband last week.

“Really? Ugh,” replied a teen. Specifically, the teen wearing a long-sleeve black t-shirt, a black skirt, and heavy black boots despite the county heat advisory.

So it is. Summer is here for all of us, even for the Goths.

The blonde hair on my younger girls is already greenish and dreadlocked from the swimming pool. My oldest is in summer school for a few weeks, getting a few credits out of the way so he can have a study hall next year. My husband, the teacher, is relishing long days outside, taking care of the dozens of tasks that go neglected and projects that get put off during the chaos of the school year.

Me, I move languidly from chore to chore, wiping peanut butter off of surfaces, running back and forth to the store for the items that disappear faster when everyone is home, losing track of hours and days and weeks.

In fact, I lost track of the weeks so thoroughly that I missed my column a couple of weeks ago. I apologize, tip my hat to Holly who didn’t miss a beat, and promise to have an alarm set on my phone for the weeks to come. Routines govern my life, and in the transition from spring to summer, all routines are upended. 

The deep rhythms of my body get lost in the haze. Without an alarm waking me at 6:45 for the weekday roll-out, I sleep ten, even twelve hours at a stretch for a few nights, then spend a night wandering the house, wide-awake. I eat a hamburger at four in the morning and oatmeal at four in the afternoon. I sniff-check myself before heading out the door, because I have no idea whether I showered this morning or three nights ago. I’m not whether my periods are actually irregular or whether my tracking has become whimsical.

In the summer, I try a little harder to hold space for my children’s joy. I let them explore more, dive deeper into their interests—even if that means hours spent on Minecraft and beach towels littering the hallway. They spread their wings and I hover, watching the sky, listening for thunder.

Last night I dreamed I was in a beauty pageant. Needless to say, I was very unprepared. I knew I needed two gowns and a stylish suit, but nothing fit. I figured I could make it through the interview portion based on my years of experience as a public speaking coach, but I needed to choose a song for the talent portion…something I could sing (literally) in my sleep. 

In my early 20s, one of my go-to pieces of repertoire was “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. “Summertime, and the living is easy…fish are jumping, and the cotton is high….” I have since stopped performing it, since it is one of only a handful of arias specifically written for a Black singer, but I guess I’m less politically sensitive in my dreams.

Although Porgy and Bess remains a controversial work based on its portrayal of Black life in 1920s Charleston (the original novel on which the libretto is based was written by Dubose Heyward, a White novelist),“Summertime” has become a standard, holding the Guinness World Record for most recorded song ever. It is a lullaby, sung by a young mother to her baby, expressing dreamy optimism in the face of poverty and a violent world.

“Oh your Daddy’s rich, and your Ma is good-looking…so hush, little baby, don’t you cry.” 

Maybe my dream was trying to remind me that I am far from the first mother to raise children while the world burns. Around the world, there are mothers singing lullabies in the face of war, famine, enslavement, and genocide. It’s the nature of mothering, now and for all time.  We hold our babies close, look into their little faces, and lie to them.

We tell them they are safe, but no one is safe. We tell them we will always be with them, but we can’t promise that. We tell them they will grow up to be splendid, joyful, independent, but for so many of them, the world will get in the way. So it is. So it has always been.

“One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singing.

You’re gonna spread your wings, and take to the sky.

Until that morning, ain’t nothing can harm you 

With Daddy and Mammy standing by.”

In the drowsy timelessness of summer, we sing them our hopes, turning them away from the storms on the horizon.

Theresa Weiler is a writer, singer, speaker, seeker. She lives in the Detroit suburbs with her husband and four children. Follow Theresa on Twitter @SometimesReese and on Instagram @realtheresaweiler.

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