Longing for California Summer

It’s a rainy afternoon here in Guatemala. And I should be used to this.

June, July and August are the height of our raining season. This year it actually hasn’t been very rainy, so I have nothing to really complain about. Guatemalans actually call the months between May-October invierno (winter) because it rains and then verano (or summer) is between Nov-April when the weather is dry. So in Guatemala there are just two season, the wet season and the dry season. Even though I grew up in southern California, not exactly the land of four seasons, I still have certain memories for each season, especially summer.

And since moving to Guatemala, three years ago, I always get a little homesick for summer. The summer I remember from my childhood.


The summer of warm nights where the sun stays awake until 9 and dinner was eaten out on the patio. The summer of running through sprinklers in the backyard with popsicles dripping down our faces. The summer of pool hopping in Palm Dessert, taking late night golf cart rides and giggling way past our bedtime. The summer of beach days, searching for sand-crabs and having mom brush off our sandy feet before getting in the van.

Then when I moved to Santa Barbara and the schedule of a teacher gave me a similar childlike joy for summer. The end of a school year brought celebration from recent graduates and teachers alike. There were Wednesday night runs at Nite Moves, the smell of BBQs on the beach and eucalyptus in the air. I remember 4th of July’s bundled up in sweatshirts sitting on the sand, watching fireworks above the pier. There were concerts in the park with picnic food spread-out on blankets and wine in disposable glasses. The days of Fiesta with crowds and confetti eggs and tacos from De La Guerra Plaza.

Somehow summer seems to give room for adults to play and enjoy. And I miss it.

You can call it homesick or nostalgia. Anyone who has moved away knows this longing. It’s subtle and easy to ignore, but there a slight ache in the heart for something that once was. It could be summer, your mom’s home cooking, the sounds of the ocean or the familiarity of running into people you know from a small town. Whatever it is, it is there. Sometimes buried between life’s celebrations and to-do lists and piles and piles of laundry. And probably given the nature of how our minds work, it’s easy to glorify the past. To only remember the pleasant memories and forget all of the hard or lonely or boring. But that’s ok. I think that’s how the heart works. It’s full of feelings and longings, not leaving as much room for the reason, rationalized memories.

It’s probably one of the things I miss most while living in Guatemala. We don’t really have the same kind of summer. The sun light is different. We live closer to the equator so the sun sets around the same time year-around. And the school calendar follows a different rhythm here. Back-to-school ads and the lists of school supplies come out in January. Spring Break happens over Semana Santa and students and teachers get vacation between October and December. The months of June, July and August get swallowed up by the rain, short-term volunteers and that middle-of-the-year-syndrome that most US teachers probably feel in February.

But in many ways my body and heart are still on a US school calendar. And every June, July and August like a little kid, I long for summer.

Maybe having a daughter awakens part of this longing. Maybe part of me mourns the fact that her idea of summer will probably be very different than mine. I know living here we will make new memories as a family. Maybe sitting on the upstairs patio listening to the rain or having indoor picnics. But I think next year I may need to visit California just once during the summer. I want to show Elena how the days are long, and the light is different and that little things like ice cream and beach days and backyard sprinklers just feel better during summertime.

What are some of your favorite memories of summer? Have you ever longed for something after moving away?


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