Summer Daze

Kuckles Down by Norman Rockwell

Chalk it up to the latent truancy that exists in parent and child alike, but I’ve been less than motivated these last few weeks. From the middle of May onward, I found myself slogging through the final projects, class picnics, and end-of-school year programs. I bought the ice cream, clapped for the perfect attendance awards, and sniffled through fifth-grade graduation. When the last bell rang, my kids weren’t the only ones ready to be done.

No more lunches to pack…
No more homework to muddle through…
No more waking up in the middle of the night to remember what I forgot…
At least for the next 104 days or so.

I grew up in a teacher’s home; in fact, it was a two-teacher home. Both my mother and father spent their days schooling future generations in the finer points of history and science. For our family, life existed in discreet increments of 9 weeks that gradually worked their way toward the ultimate goal of summer vacation. Dad often had to take odd jobs during his months off to make ends meet, but occasionally, every so often, there was a glorious summer when we had enough. He could stay with us, tend his garden, putter in his orchard, and simply enjoy working at home.

Of course, we still had responsibilities, even as children; but there was something marked about the sense of freedom we felt when school wrapped up. Instead of lesson planning and testing and grade books, our days were filled with berry picking, camping, ice cream, and lounging on the couch watching cartoons. We might go on vacation or travel to see relatives, but the joy of summer was directly tied to the fact that we didn’t HAVE TO. Dewy June mornings evaporated into hot July afternoons which eventually gave way to the muggy nights of August. And all of them blissfully unscheduled.

At least, that’s how I remember it.

Later in life, I learned that this wasn’t exactly the norm. My sense of extended vacation was, in many ways, the result of both my childhood naïveté and my parents unusual work schedules. Most of my friends didn’t experience summer the way I did, especially if both their parents worked and they ended up at grandma’s or in multiple sessions of day camp topped off with nightly VBS. In many ways, our family lived in a world apart, moving to our own rhythms, resisting outside forces. We did participate in church activities, offering up our service at Bible school or youth group camping trips, but for the most part, my parents felt no need to live their lives the way everyone else did.

For me, this meant that I carried some interesting expectations into adulthood, particularly that the world should slow down during the months of June, July, and August. In these times, you’d need only do the bare minimum outside your home. Certainly you must work. Those afternoons in front of the television often included snapping green beans, but somehow it was different. We were working for ourselves. We were investing in our own home and family. We weren’t obligated to anyone else.

Eighteen summers of this will shape a person. So that even today, my heart seems to skip a few beats faster when June rolls around. June means freedom. June means family.

At dinner the other night, after a discussion of loose teeth, why ice doesn’t sink, and the obligatory knock-knock joke, I leaned over to my husband.

“You do realize,” I said, looking conspiratorially into those brown eyes that got us here in the first place, “you do realize that we are living in a Beverly Clearly novel.”

A Beverly Clearly novel set smack-dab in the middle of summer.

I tell you all this to explain where I’ll be for the next few months. The last bell has rung, and I’m taking the summer off. I might pop in now and again, but don’t expect to see much of me. There may be some previously scheduled posts on FB or Twitter, and I might work up the effort to record a podcast or two, but for the most part, it’s going to be quiet.

Somebody’s got to teach these kids how summer’s done.

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There are 4 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Yes, I have similar memories.  Although my dad worked year round, I was blessed to have a stay-at-home mom.  That meant trips to the zoo, forest preserves, amusement park, and playing softball (or spud) l in the alley with my friends. Sleeping in till noon, staying up till midnight (my dad worked 3rd shift).  What a life!

As a pastor, the busiest months for me are usually April (Easter time and a counseling surge) and July, with camp. Summer passes way too quickly!  Since the wife goes back to her job as a teacher's aide in early August now (they keep moving up the starting date for school; I think it is something like August 6), summer is way too short.

It is true that many children are not privileged to enjoy care-free, laid back, do what you want, summers.  They taught an important lesson many need to learn: there is a time to work and a time to play.  And playing did not mean losing yourself to a video game or DVD paradise.

But, although not  laid back, I still manage to fill summer with fun things, like a vacation to see our daughter and son-in-law out east, or a trip to see our son and dtr-ln-law in the (sort of) west. We grill most days (our grill is connected to our gas line) on our deck, go to a few minor league baseball games in our town, enjoy weekly park band concerts, and do some bike riding.  It is wonderful, but, it seems, never long enough!

Fortunately, as I age, time passes more quickly. So I console myself at summer's end, "It won't be long till it's summer again."  Unfortunately, at the beginning of summer, I think, "this will be over in a flash." Got to take the good with the bad.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This is very much how I experienced summers growing up, too. Mom was full time at home and Dad had a good bit of vacation so...   very much a season of downtime. And camping trips.

Seems harder nowadays to make ends meet w/o two full time wage earners, but for those who can manage with 1 or 1.5...   maybe I'm just nostalgic, but that seems like a better way.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I grew up on a farm, and I worked my tail end off during the summer starting at the crack of dawn. Although during the heat of the day I was not confined to a classroom, and could wander the woods, play in the creek, or lay in front of the electric fan with a book (we didn't have A/C), there was no such thing as 'summer vacation'. You city folks crack me up. Biggrin

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