As a young girl, growing up in Indiana, I knew that summer was drawing to a close, not by the date or a change in the temperature, but, by the arrival of the cicadas. Without warning, as a long humid day began to sink into night, we would become aware of their humming song. My mother would state; “Six more weeks until the first frost.” A lesson she learned long ago from her father, who was a farmer. This proclamation did not always hold true, but my siblings and I grew to understand, with the arrival of the cicadas and their song, came the end of summer.
The rhythmic song of the cicada is a comfort to me. Each buzz in a late afternoon can send me back to a time when the bottoms of my feet were tough enough to run across stones. As a kid growing up in the sixties and seventies, my sisters and I didn’t wear shoes once it got hot, we ran barefoot. Back then, I knew summer was truly underway when I could dash through the neighborhood and not notice if I was on pavement, grass or a rock driveway.
Cicada songs bring a relaxation to my shoulders as I recall endless, sultry days spent swaying in the upper branches of a tree reading a book and trying to catch a breeze. Or, I remember lying on the grass watching cloud formations in the soft blue sky of late summer.
With the song of the cicadas comes the abundance of summer vegetables. Fresh sweet corn picked from my uncle’s farm and still warm as we husked it. The pleasant feel of butter dribbling down my chin as I smacked my lips together and tasted the salt mixed with the sweet of the kernels. My mouth drools with delight at the thought of sun ripened tomatoes, plucked from the vine just before being cut. Once we ate those acidic orbs, there was enough juice left on the plate to slurp down. We often made a meal of corn, tomatoes and green beans.
The cicadas sang along as we churned our own ice cream. They seemed to lead the anticipation as we waited for the milk, sugar and cream to freeze. And they would laugh at us, as our eyes almost rolled back in our heads when we ate the freezing cold dessert too quickly.
But my favorite comfort from the cicada song was their humming that grew louder and quieter with the rustle of a breeze as I lay in bed, my mind still racing, but my body exhausted from a day of play. Even now, as summer wanes and the cicada song begins, I find comfort in my many memories. And I look forward to crawling into my bed and listening to their lullaby as I fall asleep.