Memoir Sadness/Anxiety

What My Fingernails Know

photo by rocket ship @

When every fingernail on both of my hands has broken, I know it for sure: summer is over. It happens to me every year over a two or three-day period. It’s a physical thing; parts of me grow brittle and fall off. Long before the leaves ever change to yellow or orange, my body knows: autumn is in the house.

There may be a rogue “warm day” where the temperatures skyrocket into the 70s. Children put on their shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts. Folks celebrate, go for bike rides and walks in the park. And while I, of course, appreciate the warmth, the glow, the sun in my eyes, I know it is all an elaborate ruse.

The corn has been harvested. My clematis has withered and turned brown. And because I am perpetually cold, I am the first to pull out “the winter bin,” which holds all the hats and scarves and gloves. And once this curly-haired girl puts her hat on, it stays on. Until April. My closest friends know this about me – that I wear hats for about half of the year – but I have to explain myself to each new batch of fall students.

I tell them that I am a summer girl, and while I love the change of seasons – apple picking, pumpkin carving, Halloween and snow-skiing – deep in my bones, I will forever long for those years in New Orleans, Louisiana, where summer was eternal and stretched well into November, sometimes beyond. I tell them that every boy I ever really loved I met in the summer, and it is hard for me to let go of the sun and heat of my youth; that each year, like some weird woman disguised as a tree, I actually feel myself growing a little older, that instead of rings around my trunk to reflect my age, I collect wrinkles around my eyes. Each September, I lose a little of my fashizzle, my sparkle, my shine. It comes back. (It always comes back. It just goes underground and hibernates with the raccoons and the bears for a few months.)

Some of them claim to understand.

(Some of them tell me there is medication I can take.)

Some of them tell me summer isn’t over yet, and that there are sure to be plenty of pretty, warm days ahead.

I don’t care what the calendar says.

My fingernails don’t lie.

It’s fall.

20 thoughts on “What My Fingernails Know

  1. How interesting! What month were you born? I was told that can dictate whether you are a summer or winter person. I love the autumn & would hate to hibernate & miss all the colour changes.

    1. I was born in mid-November. My parents got busy during a February blizzard. 😉 It’s not that I HATE the other seasons; I don’t. I just hate losing summer. As I tap out this note, the heat has kicked on. It is under 50 degrees outside. After all the apple pies and gorgeous foliage, I know what’s ahead: Long months of gray skies and sludge on the roads. I’d rather go shoeless than clop around in heavy boots; rather wear a bikini than wear a puffy, fluffy coat.

  2. In Miami we have summer from May to November, then fall from then to March and then summer again. I want to live where they have winter only. “…parts of me grow brittle and fall off.” Eh? Well Mrs. Jakes wait’ll you’re 61 like me…. Oh yeah. I had clematis when I was six and Grandma made me all better with honey water and a garlic necklace. Try it.

  3. From one summer girl to another…I hear you. Fall is a beautiful season, but it has an overlying tone of doom to me: winter is on its way. The snow up here is beautiful when if first falls, but then the it brings the dirty slush. Also, I absolutely hate wearing socks. I could live in flip flops and slides all year round. I must move down south….NOW. The heat and humidity of NO sounds perfect to me. I also fell in love with Savannah, GA.

  4. Is there really a mediation that can warm you up in the winter- or was that supposed to be medication? I agree with Carld, Florida is the best cure. I have been here more than a decade and now I only get cold when going grocery shopping and going into the theater!

  5. Having grown up in Fairbanks Alaska, I hear you on the not being a big fan of winter. I think I had a lifetimes’ worth already. If I never see snow again I’d be just fine. As to the medication to keep you warm, it’s true.

    About ten years ago, I took a huge dose of Southern California, and I haven’t been cold since.
    Sadly I did put on a wool shirt to ride my motorcycle to work this morning, but I left it at work because it was too warm for it on the way home.

  6. Try Burt’s Bees Lemon Cuticle Cream – your nails will never tell you it’s fall, again! It smells good, and it works.

    I go through that “every nail is broken into the quick” phase too, and it reminds me that I need to use more lotion on my hands and nails. Seriously though, Burt’s Bees works the best.

  7. Really liked how you put this together. It’s like the annual turning of you. Cool stuff. Great line about every boy you ever really loved you met in summer. And your students saying there is medication you can take. Enjoyed this.

    Happy fall,

    Chase McFadden

  8. Clicked on your link from Chase’s blog. I just love the pictures you created in your paragraph about being a summer girl. The image of a woman disguised as a tree counting her aging through her collection of wrinkles – definitely something I can relate to! Although the wrinkles don’t always go away with the summer … hmmmm …

    Great blog, look forward to reading more.

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