We all say it every year, the same chorus of relief, joy and, inexplicably, surprise. The winters here are so long, dark and cold that we actually manage to forget that there will ever be sun back in our lives, and that it will be glorious, and that the summer will also be long.
Over the weekend, the torment of March’s unexpected freeze and early April’s sunny tease finally began to make way for actual sunshine. Skin everywhere began gulping for vitamin D, deprived of fresh air and the delicious rays of the sun.
Needless to say, I wasn’t the only person who found themselves alarmingly sunburned on Sunday evening, helplessly dehydrated and completely reset from last summer’s routine of sunscreen, hats and relocating to shade. When the sun makes a miraculous return, I manage to annually miraculously forget that I am, for all intents and purposes, allergic to it. I am now a rare and aggressive shade of pink, while everyone else looks elegantly sun-kissed, delicately freckled.
The obvious hazards of UV rays aside, the return of summer opens up a bounty of ideas, opportunities for adventure and a revitalized taste for life. I spent Sunday afternoon walking my neighborhood like I’d just arrived and was seeing everything for the first time.
Buildings that for so long have seemed dull, lifeless and grey suddenly burst into color. Trees that seemed only to cast more shade on already shadowy streets were suddenly dancing and singing in the breeze. Distant music was playing, everyone was smiling, the air of tasty treats on every corner.
We not only forget that summer will come back, but we forget how much we need it in order to love New York. That’s not to say that winter is entirely unbearable -- I’m all for the romantic, snowy festivities -- but summer is when the city really comes to life, and all the people in it too.
I have visitors coming from home next week and had been compiling a list of places to visit throughout the gloomy weeks of March, a list which I then tossed as soon as I remembered there would be sunshine. Scrap MoMA and windowless indoor basement restaurants -- they’ll be instructed to arrive with solid walking shoes to experience New York from the outside in.
The High Line, as much of an increasingly tourist packed spot as it is becoming, is still the pinnacle of New York outdoorsy appreciation. Meandering through Chelsea and peering into apartments you could never afford will always be a thrill. Even Central Park has its moments of being blissful in summertime, once you successfully turn a blind eye to the tourist mobs.
Every aspect of life improves. If you’re lucky, you work at one of those trendy offices that offer “summer Fridays” where you can either leave early or just not work at all. Or you can take your laptop outside and pretend to send emails while taking a cheeky siesta behind your shades.
Drinks and dinners become picnics, indoor cinema dates become, well, outdoor cinema dates. The subways seem like an unnecessary hindrance when you can just walk or bike everywhere. You’re suddenly spending less money because the simple joy of being outside is more than enough.
And yet, the downside for an Irish person in this weather will always and forever be our cursed skin, and even more cursed allergies. I don’t know if this is a universal thing for all of us, but I get the sense that a lot of us are plagued with hay fever. I, for one, get to the point where I lose the ability to breathe or see.
And so walks and naps in the park become a threat to my respiratory system. What should be a cute picnic scenario turns into a major public ordeal as my face begins to melt, eyes red and streaming, mouth unable to eat any kind of ice cream due to the frankly frightening amount of sneezing that takes place.
Going upstate to escape the city merely increases the pollen count -- lakeside getaways and Catskill hiking trails are literally like walking into my own death. It was always bad in Ireland, to the point of having to avoid certain areas of the country, and having to daily check the pollen count in my hometown.
But here, it’s almost impossible to guess when it will come. Unlike Ireland where I’m allergic to everything, here it only seems to be certain types of grass or trees or pollen or what?! I’m at a loss.
As my mother is coming to visit in a week, she’s doing the very normal Irish mammy thing of bringing a care package with treats from home, all the usual suspects: tea bags, socks from Penneys, tights from Marks and Spencer, and also a big bag of medicinal aids. They don’t do them here like they do at home!
If I’m going to survive a summer of surprise allergy attacks with unknown sources, I’m going to need enough allergy medication to completely trick my body into thinking there is no pollen on earth. If I’m going to truly enjoy the bliss that is summer in New York, I need to be enjoying it not as an Irish, pale, sunburned and highly allergic person, but as close to a New Yorker as I can get.
Because now this is a case of enjoying summer at home. And you can’t be allergic to home.