The Color of Summer

I’m referring to skin, tanned skin, the kind you get from being out in the sun. I am fully aware that tanning is out. I am apprised of the dangers and take (mostly) appropriate care. I do not tan. I go out in the sun with sunblock on my entire body and wear a hat and take breaks in the shade, but my skin just won’t give up and it tans anyway. And it makes me happy.

I cannot give up on my childhood memories of spraying lemon juice in my sister’s hair, lying on towels next to the kiddie pool in our backyard, and checking the white lines left by our bathing suits after evening baths. I can’t give up on what that brownness meant to summer for most of my life. For, although I slather on the lotion and find the shade and my days of lying out are long over, I still check my tan lines each night of vacation and delight at the changing color of my skin.

I want that physical, visual reminder that I was at the beach as proof that I was out there in the sand and the water with my kids. I can’t take home anything but photos and memories of how our time in a different place changed me. I can’t hold onto the smell of the ocean in the morning or the feeling of the breeze on my bare shoulders. But I can look at those straps of light skin connecting around my neck, that white line below the darkened skin of my belly, and know that I was there, that it had an impact, that we escaped our everyday lives and lived as other people for just those few days.

My children too are marked by the sun. Declan, more like me, with little bronzed legs and arms, rocking a farmer’s tan without his shirt. Brady, taking after his father with the slightest hint of a darker hue and a more than healthy sprinkling of freckles over his face. I cherish this evidence of our fun on their bodies, showing that even spf 50+ can’t completely lock out the brightness of summer.

It’s important to me. I do feel ashamed of my love for those glorious rays. I am nothing like the brown of my youth. Just a shade or two darker than my winter-white self. I think I’ll choose to hold onto it and accept the wrinkles in my future as further evidence of my summer days.

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