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Paul Turner: Spokane’s special love affair with summer

Maddie Secrist plays in the water in the Riverfront Rotary Fountain on May 21, 2018. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Hard as it might be for some of your Spokane friends and neighbors to believe, summer isn’t everyone’s favorite season.

There are several reasons.

Some people have lived in places where summer means punishing heat. The kind of heat that makes finding a shady place to park a matter of survival. The kind of heat that turns “It’s too hot to live” into a universal mantra.

They’ve served their time in the weather sweat-box and do not crave more. They didn’t move this far north so they could celebrate being broasted.

Others don’t buy the idea that Spokane’s winters are so rugged that we need a prolonged period of hotter-the-better recovery. This, they argue, isn’t North Dakota or Alaska.

Still others find it a challenge to welcome the woo-hoo sensibilities that summer invariably seems to usher in, or at least coax outdoors.

Sunglasses, tank tops, shorts and flip-flops are not the uniform of the examined life, they might argue.

Want more reasons some here are cool to summer? Certain people just prefer fall. Or perhaps they live to snow-ski and are not intimidated by winter driving. Or maybe because of the nature of their business, summer is when they work the longest hours and so don’t define the season in terms of sipping cocktails on a deck at the lake.

To each his own.

But you know, there’s something a bit irresistible about summer in Spokane. Even if it sort of sneaks up and wins you over when you aren’t paying attention.

Sure, a lot of that has to do with nostalgia triggers. You know, getting a whiff of freshly cut grass. Hearing “Sloop John B” or “Vacation” or that Mungo Jerry on the radio. Rediscovering really good peach ice cream. Remembering going fishing with your grandfather.

We each have our own list. But remembering summers past isn’t really where the magic resides.

Here’s the thing. So many people in the Spokane are so utterly enthralled with summer that after a while it can be contagious.

Call it a critical mass of contentment.

Now Spokane has no monopoly on fond regard for summer. Far from it.

People in Wisconsin or Maine no doubt think they own the season, too.

Even residents of hot (or hot and humid) states get a bang out of amusement parks, softball, picnics and playing in the water.

Still, there is something about Spokane’s love affair with summer that can’t simply be explained by saying “the lakes” or offering up some other shorthand for our area’s well-established connection to outdoor recreation.

This will undoubtedly sound half-baked. It probably is. But I suspect part of it has to do with the simple desire to be happy.

I think a great many local residents have bought stock in the idea that summer hooks you up with joy. Even if you have to go to work. So that has become their self-fulfilling prophecy.

Well, that and the fact a lot of people simply enjoy toasty weather and the longer days.

Now how would this be any different from the seasonal vibe in, say, New Hampshire or Colorado?

Hard to say. But here’s my theory.

I believe Spokane has 1 percent more than its share of grouches. Why and how these people became this way is a topic for another day. (Spoiler alert: It might have to do with depressed wage scales and frustrated decades of not being able to make a reasonable case that minorities are to blame for all our local problems.)

But let’s assume that deep down, that’s not really how they want to be. So what do they do when they aren’t grumbling about this or grousing about that?

They wait for summer.

When that anticipation is rewarded with a granddaughter’s sun-kissed laughter or a boat motor that starts up on the first pull, they are tempted to crack a smile. A little one maybe.

No telling where that might lead.

Now look, I’d stack our grouches up against curmudgeons anywhere. You want to see resting frown face? Come to Spokane.

But because it is possible in our part of the country to get away from irritating crowds of people, our grouches have the opportunity to flee some of the things that bug them. In the summertime at least.

That makes them happy. That makes us happy.

It’s a win-win.

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