Cruel Summer


Oh, sweet Bananarama with your 80’s one-hit wonder. Such a catchy little tune, isn’t it? Bum bum bum bum-bum bum bum. What is that? A xylophone? I’ve never been sure. Anyway, the lyrics say, “It’s a cruel, cruel summer. Leaving me here on my own. Now you’re gone.”

I was sitting by my pool yesterday, while my children tortured a poor blow-up shark by doing cannonballs on top of it, and I found myself humming that song. Of all the songs in the world, I was dipping my feet into the water and humming Bananarama.

I’ve never considered summer cruel. As a child, there was no greater feeling than throwing my back pack into the closet and hitting the neighborhood on my bike. Sleepovers, swimming, road trips, Kool-Aid by the trough.

As a teenager, I spent the nights riding around my small, southern town with friends and staying up late to write stories about young love. I grew tall and tan during the summers of my youth. I never wanted those warm nights to end.

I’ve never minded the heat, either. That can be relieved by a dip in the pool, a trip to the Gulf, a cute tank top and cold drink. Summer has always represented freedom, the unplugging of alarm clocks, cookouts, weekends at the river, air-conditioned rooms with balconies overlooking the beach, crickets singing, fireworks, laughter, memories. It’s always been my favorite time. Summer is my season.

It was my mother’s season, too.

It was our season. Together.

This is the first summer without her, and I’m struggling.

Last week I stood in my flower bed and cried because I couldn’t call her and ask what kind of fertilizer my azaleas need. Yeah, I could Google it, but that isn’t the same. She knew so much about plants and we spent hours working in flower beds together. I wanted to phone her and ask her to come over. I wanted to walk around my yard and hear her comment on how beautiful my hydrangeas look. I wanted to kneel down in the mulch with her and pull weeds and plant impatiens like we’ve done hundreds of times before. I can’t even look at my garden this season without being overcome with grief. Something that I once delighted in, a treasured summertime hobby, has become painful.

We spent the hot days together. She raced my children from the shallow end to the deep. She’d get out and lounge next to me, her blonde hair pulled into a pony tail and her tan toes shining with Silver City Pink polish. We’d talk about that last trip to Pensacola and those Po’ boys at Peg Leg Pete’s. She reminisced about the summers of her youth in Nashville.

My children would stay the night at her house often during the summer. They’d call the next afternoon and ask if they could stay another night. And another. Mammy was going to take them to the farmer’s market. She bought them a slip n’ slide. “Can we stay again tonight, Mama?” Of course I let them. I loved that they made so many summer memories with her.

I don't remember why we posed like this. But I remember we thought it was funny.

I don’t remember why we posed like this. But I remember we thought it was funny.

I thought of all of that while humming Bananarama. It’s a cruel summer without her here. I’m left here on my own. She’s gone.

I’m angry she isn’t here. Most of my friends still have their parents, and I’m jealous of that. I’m jealous they are sharing a condo at Gulf Shores. I’m angry their mother is helping them in their flower beds. I feel cheated when I see grandparents at the ball field rooting for that kid in the batter’s box. I feel like I’m too young not to have any parents. No mother. No father. They should still be here. It’s summertime, a season for family, and my parents should be here.

For the first time in my life, I can barely stand the heat. The lounger next to me is empty- the lounger where we basked in the sun together and where she drank lemonade from her monogrammed tumbler. The lounger where we shared laughs and deep talks and she decided on a whim to get up and go to the kitchen to make a lemon meringue pie.

The days drag on, hot and humid, and the sun takes forever to set on another day of grief and longing. I don’t want to fill her old terracotta pots with flowers. Those are her pots. She should be planting them. I don’t want to tend to the garden. I find no real joy in that anymore. I don’t want to grill out. She won’t be there with her famous potato salad and  baked beans and witty one-liners as she stands in the kitchen and slices the onion. I don’t want to do summer without her.

“You’ve got to press on and make memories for your own children. You’ve got to rejoin the land of the living. You’ll learn to love summer again.” That’s what they say, but I don’t want to hear it. Sometimes I just don’t want to hear that I’ve got a lifetime to get used to her not being here.

I just want my mother this summer. I want her all the time, but especially this summer.

Summer was our season.

I don’t think Bananarama was singing about dead mothers in “Cruel Summer”, but I am.

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About Susannah

I'm a freelance writer, blogger, aspiring best-selling author, wife of one and stay-at-home mother of two. I was chosen for the Top 13 in Blogger Idol and contribute pieces to The Huffington Post and Hahas for Hoohas. My work has also been featured in several humorous e-books, "Southern Writers’ Magazine", "The Humor Daily", "The Funny Times" and on the Erma Bombeck website. When I'm not putting pen to paper, bandaging boo-boos or spraying Shout on unidentifiable stains, I enjoy reading, playing the piano and teaching my children all about Southern charm. God has blessed me beyond measure and to Him be the glory forever.


55 thoughts on “Cruel Summer

  • Cindy Chasteen

    I can’t say I know how you feel,because I dont. But I do hope that peace will find its way to you,and that you will be able to enjoy your summers again. Love your post.

  • Miggs

    Evocative lovely writing, thank you for sharing this. Grief is about all the tears, memories and ways that sadness pulls down on us. It is human nature for those friends wishing magically to want to lighten your load [but they are wrong] ; those friends who really understand can sit with you in your grief [it’s how people heal]. Your mother was a remarkable woman to share all these pieces of life with you and model for you how to be a woman/mother/grandmother. My guess is she would want you to take care of yourself…enough of what you need; not too much of what you don’t and the wisdom to find whatever you need for help when it’s needed. MWG

  • Pamela B

    Thank you for sharing this…. it is such sweet sorrow for us. I just lost my dear Mama… on Mother’s Day of all things. I am struggling just to see through each hour, and reading your beautifully crafted remembrances of your mother make it a little easier. Like you, I am so very thankful for the amazing love and grace that she showed to everyone, but most especially to her daughters to help shape us into the uniquely gifted creatures that we all are. I can tell that your way of telling your stories comes from a deep and abiding love instilled in you by your mother. God bless you as you walk this journey, and thank you from one motherless but grateful daughter to another.

  • Jenna James

    Oh friend, this posts speaks straight to my heart. I’m 40 and both of my parents are gone…I long for my mother every single day. I know exactly how you feel. It’s a deep pain and it seems everywhere you look, there’s a reminder of how horrible it is that she’s gone. I pray that you’ll find comfort but know it’s really only something time can fix, somewhat. Thank you for your post. Thank you for sharing exactly what I was feeling on this hot Tennessee day. Much love from Spring Hill.

  • Lynda

    Dear NEW friend, I weep for you, feel a bit envious of such a loving relationship you enjoyed with your mom. My mom loved we 3 girls & dad, but she was quite closed off, actually. I still miss her, been about 35 years. I hoped to do better with my kids, they turned out ok. Deep sympathy😥

  • Tiffany

    My momma passed away on Valentines Day this year. Luckily I was there. It happened so fast that early morning, so I didn’t get to officially say goodbye to her, but I hope she knows I was there. I feel robbed. My parents had me in their 40’s, after two children in their early twenties, I was the “late” baby. It has been extremely tough, she was sick, her health had been bad for years. We knew she was getting worse, we knew she could go just like that. And that’s exactly what she did, and God do I miss her. I sit here crying as I type this, thinking of all the woulda, coulda, shoulda moments that never will be. Life is never going to be the same, we have only memories to get us through. I hope my heart eventually believes that. Hang in there. You’re not alone. I’m not just saying that, even though I dearly wish I was.
    Tiffany

  • Julia

    I lost my mother 8 summers ago. You don’t get over the greif, but it does get more tolerable. It passes in waves. In my darkest days, the first few years, people would offer “helpful” advice. I wanted to poke their eyes out. Have a drink and feel your pain. Losing your mother sucks.

  • Vicki Winder

    As I read this I saw myself and felt the deep deep loss that I felt and still feel with the loss of my own mom. Please don’t make the same mistake that I made. I almost gave up on life, and in many ways, I did for so long. Today, I still have feelings of guilt for the time I took away from my husband and children because all too often, I was almost checked out of life. Oh how I miss my mom every single day, but if there’s anything I can do to honor her memory, it is to always put my family first….just as she always did. God bless you! I feel so honored to have happened upon your Facebook and blog.

    • Mommom

      I was just apologizing to my daughter today for this very thing! She is the one who tagged me to read this. What a Synch💝I was 38 yo my mom was my best friend in an adult kinda way. I checked out for a while after her death too. Just could never feel that pain of loving and losing again. Just when my kids needed me most. I know it affected them but I eventually came around. Have twin grands 3 1/2 yo light of my life and loving full out 💝 miss her still so much 23 years a cruel summer indeed

  • craftygal

    My mama died when I was 19. The nerve of her, right? I am now 19+20 and I still long for her to be here with me. Not like I did at first – it’s soooo painful at first. Rip your heart out and stomp on it painful. But….every now and then something will get me – even a noise or a smell – and I’ll be reminded of her immediately. Sometimes it makes me cry….still. Sometimes it makes me laugh uncontrollably. Sometimes it makes me angry. We never fully get over it. But why should we? It’s just a sign of a good relationship that we had. And we’re grateful. I hate to encourage you by saying “It’ll get easier” because I HATE that phrase. But….it’s true. Praying for you all during these difficult, seemingly impossible moments. You’ll make it.

  • Karen

    This is how I’ve felt for 23 years now. Summer was our time too, my mom’s and mine. The first summer after she was gone I cried at a baseball game in front of strangers because how could I be there watching baseball without her? Same with the beach. And on and on. On Monday, on the 23rd anniversary of her passing, I’ll watch my first child graduate from high school. And I’ll cry because I love him and I’m so proud, but also because how can I be there watching him graduate without her?

    I learned, like I hope you do, to let those waves of grief not completely knock me over every time I watched a baseball game or went to the beach or got the Neiman’s Christmas catalogue. But those waves don’t ever go away completely I don’t think. And that’s ok for me now. Because it means my mom was so loved and that she loved me just as much.

    Love to you Susannah.

  • H. Holman

    No one in this world ever loves you like your Mom.
    And I agree: Every day is cruel without mine. I don’t have nearly as many outbursts of tears in strange places/times now that 10 years has gone by….but I know all too well that pure feeling of drifting and feeling lost/joy-less. Sending good vibes your way….from one Mother-less Daughter to another….

  • Patty Hibble

    My mom is my best friend. She always has been. We sunned together today. Yet, she’s in her twilight years and beginning to slow at a fairly fast pace. After losing Dad suddenly last year, I know our days together are numbered and I fear the feeling of loss again. Like you, I’ve wanted to call my dad to ask his advice – which is something we NEVER had to do [ “ask” his advice 😉 ] . Having found joy again, I still stop in my tracks when I realize he’s gone. And it hits me all over again. Wow. I don’t know that we’ll ever get over such loss. I’m in a club I never wanted to join. I am, however, so grateful for the wonderful father he was and that I still have my mom. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other – that’s how they would want us to continue. I try to remember Dad with a smile, instead of sadness – when I can – by just remembering how he thought farts were the funniest thing ever! I think of the time he and I were in Winn Dixie when he felt the urge and thought he’d slip out a little silent one. OOPS! Noisier than expected – but what did he do??? Say “PATTY!!!!” like I was the one cutting the cheese on aisle #8 ! God bless you, Susannah. Your post made me realize I need to put in call #5 to Mom for the day! <3

  • Michelle

    I miss my grandmother every day, so I understand your grief. I will tell you that it eases up with time and will then wash over you unexpectedly like a breath-taking tidal wave. Eventually, those waves come less frequently and you have time to remember the good memories you shared. Hang in there and focus on one day at a time.

  • Traci

    I’m sorry for your heartache….and know that there are no words that can ease the pain and sadness you feel. I, too, lost my mom too early and it’s hard to describe the empty place in my heart and soul that she occupied. Although our experiences with our moms were different, the feelings you express so well are very similar. Prayers for you…

  • Lori

    I understand….. It hurts and it’s not fair. I lost my Mom almost 3 months ago. I am still navigating the grief and emotions. I miss her and a hundred times a day I think about calling her. About flowers, about recipes, about anything. It hurts that I can’t do it and that I can’t hear her laugh.
    I guess this isn’t really helping you but I just wanted you to know that I get it…. xoxo

  • Courtney fair

    So incredibly real. The cruelest part is that our children won’t know the “wonderful” that was our mothers. And people say, “Well you’ll talk about her and keep her memory alive and they’ll know her that way.” Bull crap. See if that pacifies them when their moms aren’t here any more. I’m not angry with my friends who still have moms; I’m just so SUPER sad that I don’t have mine. You penned exactly how I feel. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to live through.

  • Karen

    I stopped having summers with my Mom when I was 16 yrs old. I wish I had as many memories as you. While you’re jealous of all those ppl spending time with their mothers, I’m jealous of you. I am not minimizing your grief or your loss but just want you to realize how blessed you are to have had your Mom as long as you did. God bless you.

  • Suzie

    I still have my mom and get to see her pretty often ((to live 150 miles apart), but one day I will be in the same situation. You nailed it. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Kristi Barone Bruins

    My Mom lived for the summer and the beach she went seveal tInes a week. This will be my 3rd summer without her and going to the beach without her by our side is never the same. It’s a bitter sweet memory.

  • Jenn

    I’m am so sorry you are going through this. I lost a best friend in college to a drunk driver. You never get over the missing space they filled so bright but you learn to live as they would want you to. Memories will help you find peace and joy. It’s ok to get mad and angry because you have to go through all the emotions to be able to survive! You have a great blog- Facebook page and I’m sure your mom would be so proud! I pray for peace for you and time to heal your broken heart.

  • Op2misticone

    I can say I know how you feel to a degree. My father went to be with the Lord in September. It seems like only yesterday that we were hugging and telling each other we loved one another and we knew that day would be the last we would see one another, here, on earth. I can understand how difficult this is. And my heart hurts for you. Your mother sounds like a great mom that was always there for you and your children. She created a legacy of lasting memories, that will cause you to drop to your knees and tear up and wish she was here, but they will also be memories, that down the road will strengthen you and remind you that you are part of her just like she is part of you and no amount of time will ever change that. I can tell, by your writing and sharing your heart how much of an influence she had on you and your life. I am glad that you were able to experience pure simple joy with of just being and no matter what you two did, it brought great joy and peace. It is my prayer that God will carry you on days when you feel like crying in your flowerbed and days when the heat seems to much and days when you can’t pick up the phone, just to hear her on the other end of the line. I miss so many things about my father, but not hearing his voice is one of the worst. Long gone are the days on answering machines with tapes of our loved ones that can be saved. May Jesus give you peace and know that although your mother is no longer with you in person, she lives on in you and your children and family members. God Bless you!

  • Susan

    Yep- I totally get it. I lost my mom suddenly and unexpectedly in December to a heart attack and she was my best friend. I miss her so very much. I think about her all the time/ every day. Reading the book “Imagine Heaven” helped me. It made Heaven more real to me and I am filled with hope. And in those moments that remind me of her most when grief tries to come down heavy, I resist and think, “No- this is a happy memory and you can’t have it, Death, just like you can’t have her.” She would be mad if I let our happiest times be tinged with sorrow. I am certain that she still IS and we WILL BE again one day. And Heaven will be better than 1,000 summers. Saying a prayer for you tonight.

  • Lisa

    My mother has stage 4 cancer and dementia. I lose a little piece of her every day. My biggest fear is loosing her and going through what you’re experiencing.

  • Stephany

    Having lost both my parents before I turned 40, I totally understand your pain. I admitted my mom to hospice on my 38th birthday, during the dog days of summer in Pensacola. I wish I could tell you that it gets easier, but there’s always something new that rips you apart a little bit. Like having a bonus baby who will never know how awesome her Moe was. Or getting a promotion and knowing she’d be so, so proud. And needing to call when your mammogram comes back with a suspicious nodule. But, then, there are those days when you laugh and laugh telling your favorite story of her or hear her voice coming out of your mouth. No, it doesn’t get easier, but you grow accustomed to the loss, and you learn that her lessons live on in you.

  • Betsy

    My sister shared this post with me and I relate so much. Our mom died July 5 and this year it will be 4 years since that awful day that our worlds stopped. Once the weather starts getting warm I start to think more about that hot day we suddenly had to say goodbye. I am also missing those fun summer trips and planting impatiens with my Mom. She was our best friend and life is tough without her. I am sorry you are feeling this same grief as I know how deeply it affects you. Your mom seemed like a wonderful mom like ours.

  • Donna

    I feel your pain, only it’s my husband that I’m missing. I walked the other day and just grieved. His grapevines that he cherished. The nearly 2 acres of grass he cut. The pool he maintained. I just can’t do it. It’s all I can do to raise our 4 children. This summer will be hard. God Bless!

  • Texsheva

    Your posts about your mother always make me cry. Mine has been gone for 20 yrs….and my dad 22. Although the grief isn’t so raw every day anymore, when I read these posts and reflect, it’s just as raw as it was in the beginning. That never ends….and you always feel a part of you is missing, but somehow the everyday does get easier, with time. It’s the little things that grab me, like the planting of flowers. I don’t like being the matriarch. Life’s not as fun now that I have to be the adult.

  • Amanda

    This will be my sixth summer without my mother, she passed when I was barely 25 and each day since she left has been a struggle. The first two years were the hardest, the darkest and saddest moments I’ve ever experienced in my life. After that it did get easier to cope, but inside I knew that pain was still there and that wound that her passing left was still raw. It never goes away, the pain just roots itself deep inside of you and becomes a permanent part of who you are but you learn to live with it. I’m so sorry for your loss, it sounds like she was a beautiful person and obviously very beloved. One day you will enjoy your summers again, because your mother would want you to, and she’d want you to make new memories, even if they are without her. By you sharing her stories and your memories you made with her you are keeping a part of her alive, and no one can ever take that from you.

  • Kimberly

    My heart absolutely breaks for you. I don’t know what it feels like to use a parent but it do know what it feels like to lose someone who was everything to me. Everything all in one beautiful package. My sister was that person for me. I know about not wanting to go on living, I how it feels to not want to hear everyone’s advice on how you have to keep living for those that are left behind. I don’t have advice for you but I can and will pray for you.

  • mamasyder

    So beautifully written, it made me cry. This is exactly how I felt about Christmas time when I lost my Mum ten years ago. We had to completely change our old routine because it was too unbearable to get through without her. The change helped. I get the jealousy bit too. I am so envious of people who have parents. We never stop needing them x

  • Billie Walker

    Ah honey. I know how you feel. We had to bury both our mama and when I lost mine I nearly died. But it was only 13 yrs later we had to bury our 11 yr old child. That just wasn’t right at all. I included you in my prayers this morning after reading this. We loved Gulf Shores so much we moved here after our radiant angel left us. She is buried in Harpeth Hill Memorial Garden in Nashville. In a way, it feels like our lives kind of intertwine , tho I am much, much older. I still feel your pain you wonderful, funny lady. You have made me laugh when I didn’t know I could laugh. God Bless You darlin’ girl!

  • Amanda

    I can relate with having lost my Dad and being disconnected from my mom. It’s hard seeing grandparents with their grandchildren and knowing that my son doesn’t get to have that.

  • campman62

    …somewhere in the Bible it says, “a Sad Face is Good for the Heart.” Must be Old Testament… As dismal as some days can be, TY4 the Hope, Encouragement & Laughter You Provide Here. You are a True Breath of Fresh Air & a SOOPA TROOPA…Get It Girl > P.S. You have made My Wife “Smile Again”. She has “Found Her Funny” thru You. Thanks again, Ma’am.

  • Tanis Nash Setzer

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It is my first summer without my mom. And it’s funny I read this posting because just today I had similar thoughts about my flower beds- I don’t care that they are bare and untended because my mom isn’t here to tell me how wonderful they look. As this first painful year passes for us I hope we can look forward to gardening again and watching for the newness of spring growth in our gardens and our hearts. Sending you strength and peace.

  • Sarah Drane

    Oh my goodness! I know God lead me here tonight. My mother passed away 4th of July weekend . I worked at a State Park that puts on a huge fireworks display on so the sound of fire crackers almost makes me have a panic attack with the way they flood my soul with the sounds that I heard the night she passed away. I remember being mad at everyone celebrating when I had lost my sweet mother. So even as I type this I have heard firecrackers going off and of course I started thinking about her and how I still miss her terribly even 14 yrs. later. I try to remind myself the more years on earth without her means I’m getting closer to seeing her in heaven and sitting beside her as we worship Jesus together for eternity but the years are long and sometimes the days are unbearable, although more time lapses between them now. Anyway, I just wanted to say “thank you ” and I knew when I happened upon my first video tonight that the Joy of the Lord was your strength . I could tell from the very first video. May God continue to bless you with that joy and may He always substain and keep you . Please remember that everyday here without her is a day closer to seeing her on streets of gold where you will never be separated again. I’m so glad God gave me the pleasure of the joy you share this side of heaven and I hope to meet you someday just beyond the sunset and worship our Lord and Savior with our dear sweet momma’s right beside her. God bless you!

    P.S Your spirit is giving God all the glory ,that you can be sure of!

  • Christina

    I feel somewhat kindred to you. I grew up in the Pensacola area and there’s nothing like the heat of summer. I spent mine with one of my best friends growing up, my grandfather, and it just isn’t the same without him. He taught me how to sew the worn holes in his favorite blanket because my grandmother was no longer there to do it for him anymore. He taught me how to make a good compost for my garden out of eggshells, coffee grounds, and whatever else he had around. We would plant perennials in his small backyard in Gulf Breeze. I miss him immensely and I only wish he was here to see all that I have so we can drink sun tea and talk about our day. Even though I do miss him I know one thing, anytime a breeze blows it’s him saying hi and I know he’s always watching. I know one day we will get to talk together again. I’ll pray for you during such a hard time. No amount of words ease the pain unfortunately, but old memories ensure you were loved dearly.

  • Dixie Dobbins

    Damn you’re a good writer. You made me cry. I just found you and I love what I’ve seen and read so far. Your mama is with you.

  • jnfunthoughts

    Susannah…I know this won’t help you right now, because loss is loss…. But you are blessed to have had the lovely journey with your mama that you did have. Her life will always resonate through you, and the relationships you have with your children. My mother is still alive, and she has always been satisfied with a superficial and distant relationship. My whole life I’ve yearned for closeness with her. Instead I have felt criticized, and even worse, dismissed. Now, watching my own kids grow toward adulthood, it is a struggle not to panic about losing them. I have to remind myself, I am not Her. I am not Her. Every mother does the best she can it is said… But I have to figure out for myself, everything about what it means to be the mother that I want to be, the mother I want for my children. That ain’t easy. I grieve the mother/daughter relationship that never was… You can get new, better friends, better jobs, better partners… But you get only one mother. You done good, girl. Give yourself time and nurture yourself through it. We can be amazing parents to ourselves, if we’re willing! And your mama will always be there with you! Much love!

  • Meg

    xoxo So sorry Susannah. Love reading your posts and watching your videos. Hang in there. Keep smiling and finding the funny things in life. xoxo

  • vic buehler

    ole’ susannah, I think that was a xylophone? (w/felted drum sticks) “singing” to you, maybe because she is very proud of you.

  • Sherry lynch

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I have recently lost my mom, my goodness it’s been 9 months already, and I find myself still picking up the phone to call her to tell her about anything that’s going on in my life. It’s so sad! I don’t think I will ever be able to get over this. Thankfully I found your posts on Facebook, and girl, you make me laugh and smile again. God bless you for your sense of humor….you are very witty, and even though we don’t know each other, I feel very close to you, your personality reminds me of my momma! Thank you Susanna!

    A new fan,
    Sherry

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