(This is another special posting by Suzy. I hope you enjoy it.)
When we were children, summer was the most anticipated and enjoyable season of the year. As children we spent the boring bits of class willing the trees to leaf out knowing that the end of the school year wouldn’t be far behind. At least, I would.
I’d daydream about all of the time I will have to do what I wanted to do when I was free of school, and teachers, and books, and homework. I would almost be able to feel the luxury of sleeping late. Or, maybe, get up early to be outside with my friends. We’d be able to get on our bicycles and ride a far as we wanted to go, as long as it was within the limits our parents had set for our meanderings. We might race each other or copy our parents’ driving and use turn signals and stay on the right side of the road. More often we would just ride and talk. As we got older, the latter turned into strolling and chatting. We would expect that one of our parents or one of our friends’ parents would be able to take us to the beach or a pool so we could swim, dive, or splash to our hearts content. There would be endless afternoons of board games where the entire living room would be full of friends spread out on the floor. At least until a younger sibling came in and moved all of the pieces. On breezeless afternoons we would be able to sit on the back step and play card games, or take our crayons to our color-books. I always had either an old cigar box or a smallish shoe box full of all the bits and pieces that I’d saved. These would have rubbed against each other so much that you would need to rub them on the interior of the box to get to the pure color before you used it on your project. Styles of coloring would change with age and location. Sometimes the goal was to color in one direction. Other times, different pieces of a section were done in different directions for ease or effect. Or, you might want to outline over or inside of the printed lines before coloring. Maybe the outline perimeter would keep getting smaller until the section was complete. However it was, one could spend hours coloring.
Summer never turned out to be quite so free of chores and regulations as I would dream, but I always found it pleasurable. I’ve always been a sun person and there is more sun in the summer. When I was growing up, parents set a list of chores that were our responsibility of accomplish, but they didn’t schedule all of our time. We had many enjoyable hours to play and daydream. Moma never wanted us to disturb the neighbors too early, so chores were mostly to be done before we went out to play. After lunch, when we were too old to take naps, we were to read for about an hour instead. As reading became easier that sometimes stretched until a friend showed up to collect us just because it was to hard to put a book down at a good part. I remember reading the biography of Michelangelo. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, in two afternoons because it just drew me into the story of his life.
I’ve always been able to more than fill my time with things I wanted to do rather than following someone else’s pre-ordained schedule for me. Summer gave me more time to follow my current druthers.
Summer also brought it’s special treats. When I was growing up, food was still seasonal so it was the only time to get good tomatoes or watermelon or corn-on-the-cob. Swimming outside was always so much better than the heavily chlorinated air of an indoor pool. In cooler climates, grilling was only a summer activity.
My family often went on picnics. Moma would pack a lunch. Dad fixed a thermos of lemonade. We’d go to the beach or just into the countryside. Wherever we would stop, it was always a place we children could run and play.
Then, there was twilight; the long slow evenings. Growing up we didn’t have air conditioning, so Moma wanted out of the kitchen and it’s heat as soon as she could. Soon after Daddy came home from work Moma finished up and served our meal, and then we were all outside with the windows open to release the heat from the house. That was when, as a young child, we played hide and seek, or tag, or ran races down the alley behind the house. We would play with the grass cuttings on people’s lawns. That sounds silly, but somehow it was fun. Of course, there would be lightening bugs. We would put them in jars. Our parents obviously didn’t care for our safety because we would be given an empty, glass mayonnaise jar the lid of which we had poked holes in using the pointed can opener often referred to as a church key. We’d throw some grass in the bottom of the jar and then set it between our parents’ feet. It wasn’t that we were afraid to run with it. We just wanted our hand free to catch the lightening bugs. We would carefully carry them back to where our parents were sitting. Whoever was holding the jar would carefully raise the lid so that we could slide the bug into the jar, then put the lid back with only one twist to be prepared for the next bug. After a bit, we children would compare to see whose jar had the most lightening bugs. Before we went in for the night we had to let them go free. That was okay. Then they would be there for the next night’s play. When we visited our grandparents, Granddad would walk with us to the ice cream store while Grandmom and Moma finished up in the kitchen. Children would get an ice cream cone or a snow cone while Granddad would buy just enough scoops for the adults. By the time we got back, the kitchen was clean and everyone else was waiting for us on the back porch. We would sit, eating the ice cream, and letting the descending dark engulf us. Voices seemed to soften into murmurs as the light faded.
Summer had its rhythms. Memorial Day meant it was upon us. Independence Day came too soon and, in my mind, always meant the season was half over. Then, there was Labor Day and that was summer’s last song. It was the final, sweet note of my favorite season. It presaged returning to school and schedules and a more rushed and hurried season. Now it was time for fall clothes, and new pencils, pens, crayons, books, …. Soon we would have colored leaves and the clean crispness of mornings after a frosty night. Soon we would have the sweetly acrid smell of burning leaves and the taste of the season’s first crisp apples and ginger snaps.
Labor Day is so sad because it is the end of my favorite season: summer. And so sweet because it is the beginning of another favorite: autumn.
The last word:
I, too, have fond memories of summer with minimal boundaries and, more importantly, little schedule. Of course there were things that had to get done, but most of it was open for whatever. Kids, and adults, need time to just daydream. It is the wellspring of creativity. I think we punish our children by eliminating that time, and we don’t do ourselves any favors by trying to constantly multi-task with minimal time to just escape to whatever.
Have a great holiday weekend.
Keep your sense of humor.