It was 90 degrees when I stepped out of my car. Listing across the Cub parking lot as if it were the Sahara, I couldn't believe the indecency before my eyes: There on the store's sidewalk display were rows of bright orange pumpkins.
Oh, no, I muttered, grimacing like I'd been hit with a stomach bug. Those cursed pumpkins were trying to tell me that summer was over.
Every year it happens. And perhaps aggressive seasonal store displays are not only to blame. Summer in Minnesota comes to a close, its minutes of warmth and daylight disappearing into the ether. It leaves me with a sting of panic, a sense of denial, and inklings of FOHMO — fear of having missed out.
If we lived in a place like Palm Springs or Key West, we wouldn't feel the anxiety that creeps up when August turns to September. People who live in perpetual sunshine know they can bask in more months of boating and barbecues and handstands in the pool.
But we hardy Northern folk know our summers are as short as the hemline on a homecoming dress. Sun-obsessed frivolity begins on Memorial Day weekend and winds down on Labor Day.
"I feel like summer just now is getting settled in, but the truth is, it's ending," said Chris Reece, a KSTP-TV meteorologist who was raised in Texas and Kentucky and moved to Minnesota last fall.
The weather this year puts a finer point on the preciousness of perfect summer days. While the temperatures this season were fairly average in Minnesota, it has been drier and smokier, with a record number of air quality alerts.
"I joke that it's been the summer where you can't go outside because either it's too hot, or if it feels good, it's smoky, or it's not smoky, that's the day it finally rains," Reece said.
As a snow-curious Southern child, Reece, 28, always dreamed of moving to Minneapolis. Now that he's here, some of his biggest "life freaks" are coming true.
First white Christmas. First Northern Lights. He lives for snowstorms, and even though he's getting married in December, he and his fiancée are postponing their honeymoon until spring to make sure he doesn't miss out on a potential blizzard. He says moving to Minnesota has been one of the biggest blessings of his life.
And yet he gets why some of us feel a case of the end-of-summer scaries.
"As much as I love winter, I am also willing to admit that winter is long up here," he said. "Winter seems dark for a long time."
Perhaps a more with-it Minnesotan would have had her summer bucket list ready by ice-out. A seasonally depressed Minnesotan shudders at the first turning leaf and thinks of all the things she didn't get done (or wishes she'd done more of): family bike rides to the lake. Lazy mornings at the farmers' market. Day trips to state parks. Ice cream treats at sunset.
Research suggests that humans feel the pain of loss twice as much as the pleasure of gain. Even though pleasant weather sticks around for the start of fall, loss looms on the horizon. By September, we lose three minutes of daylight a day.
But this Labor Day weekend the sun is sizzling the state, meaning we've been gifted with an extension to warm-weather fun. Like the saying goes, we'll dance like nobody's watching. Love like we've never been hurt. Live like summer in Minnesota is never going to end.