DARRELL HUCKABY: Appreciating the scents of the summer season

I was sitting on the front porch the other day and made the comment, “It smells like summer.”

My lovely wife, Lisa, the pragmatic one in the family, responded, rather sarcastically, “What does summer smell like?”

I didn’t answer right away, preferring to give a little thought to the matter. It’s kind of like the time Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart argued, “I might not be able to define hard-core pornography, but I know it when I see it.” I know summer when I smell it, and after considerable thought I have decided that this is what summer smells like, near as I can figure.

Summer smells a lot like freshly mown grass. It is true that most of us cut grass almost the entire year ‘round these days, but there is just something special about the scent that permeates the air when the mowers are out on an early July morning.

When I was a kid, growing up in Porterdale, I didn’t know anyone who had a lawnmower of their own because The Bibb kept the grass cut and on mornings when the mowers were out in force, cutting the yards that weren’t purposely kept devoid of grass and the city parks, the air over the entire town just smelled different.

Summer smells like tomato vines, too. I’m not talking about tomatoes, themselves, understand. I am talking about the vines themselves and unless you have walked out your door and picked a vine-ripened tomato off a plant growing in your own soil, you might not understand what I mean. If you haven’t you’ve missed out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. If you have, close your eyes right now and that fragrance will come back to you, finer that the best French perfume. Naturally, the smelling doesn’t compare with the eating.

Summer smells like the dirt infield of a baseball or softball diamond, with a little bit of chalk dust mixed in and hot popcorn wafting over the air — with the essence of Bazooka bubble gum barely present. I wish I had a nickel for every summer evening I spent at Snow Field in Porterdale, watching Sid Hodge and Blunt Patterson and J.D. Smallwood play softball. Summer smells like those evenings at Snow Field, which smelled an awful lot like late afternoons at Baker Field when the Porterdale Yankees were playing the Covington Mills Trojans or the Stewart Indians.

Summer, of course, smells like lightning bugs smashed in a child’s hand, and it smells like tomatoes stewing on the stove, ready for canning, and like pears and onions and peppers being ground into mash and sugared vinegar coming to a boil. I don’t think most people put up food and make pear relish and such as they used to. If they did we wouldn’t need to be reminded of what summer is supposed to smell like.

Summer smells like Coppertone suntan lotion. I found a very old bottle recently with an SPF of 4. We were really serious about taking care of our skin back in those days. “Tan, don’t burn with a Coppertone tan.” Remember the little girl who kept getting her bathing suit bottoms pulled down by her dog? Someone told me she wound up working a pole on Cheshire Bridge Road, but I hope that was just a vicious rumor.

Finally, summer smells like a cold front about to pass through, with rain on the air, hovering over the hot, humid, sultry Southern landscape like a cloud of fog over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. That, I believe, is what I had detected when I made the comment about it smelling like summer to begin with.

“Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives” — according to the old soap opera trailer — and we should embrace all of the summer days that we are given, because none are promised or guaranteed us and they all eventually give way to fall which gives way to winter — figuratively and literally.

That is as it should be, of course, because it is all a part of the great cycle of life, and when autumn comes, I will find much to celebrate about the fall and when winter comes I will pray for snow and celebrate the cold temperatures and the demise of the mosquitoes. Speaking of which, I suppose summer smells a little bit like bug spray, as well.

Enjoy your summer and take time to smell the roses. Oh, yeah. I suppose summer smells a little like roses, too.