In the summertime…
Summer just started, and next Tuesday will be six months from Christmas. As the hair grays time starts whizzing by faster and faster until your nose starts to heat up and turn red from the friction (or the booze).
Back in the post-diaper period of life every day is summer. Then your parents explain the concept of school to you, and you just know it’s a bad idea. Then they explain summer vacation to you, and you accept the deal with the Devil.
When I was a kid, summers alternated between really good and different. The really good summers were those when we stayed where we were. The good summers were after kindergarten, after second grade, after seventh grade, and then all through high school.
I was a Navy dependent. We followed Dad. The different summers included moving to a new place where we could all be “the new kid.” Being the new kid was second nature, and thus part of life. It was the travel that I remember.
I added it up once, and I think I was a passenger seven times in cross-country car trips. I saw stuff.
I saw the Corn Palace in South Dakota. I saw a gigantic stuffed bear in a Reno, Nevada casino. I walked the original strip in Las Vegas…before it was a covered light show. I saw Mt. Rushmore. I saw the Black Hills. I saw the Badlands. I learned what deep was by staring into the Grand Canyon.
We had a 1965 Ford Station Wagon, and Mom and Dad went out Route 66 through the southwest desert with 4 kids and a dog. It got so hot that we thought the dog was going to perish, so we stopped at a diner in the middle of nowhere (I swear it was like the diner in Alice.) The waitress let us come in with our dog and gave him water with ice. We ate there, and we didn’t leave until the sun started to go down. I hope that woman had the greatest life.
One summer we went from Ohio to San Francisco to get Dad after his first tour in Vietnam. In Sacramento the morning of the day Dad arrived it was over 100o. When we picked Dad up in San Francisco it was 55o. We were freezing. When Dad had left Da Nang, Vietnam two days earlier, it had been 120o.
The Disney company gave us free tickets to Disneyland because Dad was a returning Vietnam vet. I never once thought of how bizarre it must have been for Dad. He had been a Navy Corpsman in a Marine field hospital at Phu Bai, South Vietnam a week before he was taking us on the Dumbo ride. WOW! His mind must have been blown.
When I was a teacher, summers were awesome. The last day of school is exciting for students, but it was a religious experience for me. My summers were short because I coached football, but I managed to cherish every day…even days I slept through.
The first summer I wasn’t a teacher was terribly depressing. Up until that summer, my life had been punctuated every year by a three-month sabbatical. I would sit in my cubicell and think, “Here I am in summer school while all the other kids are out having fun.”
The summers when my kids were young gave me the chance to relive the old freedom through them. Summers last longer when you live with people that are still living in a time stream that crawls by slowly.
One of the few places time slows down in the summer is in our garden. It is taking forever for tomatoes and peppers to set on. My lettuce got in late, and it’s been almost a week, and I haven’t seen anything but a weed pop up. I think my potatoes rotted in the hills. It rained for a week just after I planted them.
Summer is barely arrived, and I can see it’s in a big hurry. Lately Gail and I have taken to drinking coffee on the back cement slab on weekend mornings and sitting with cold drinks after the yard work and before the mosquitoes. It’s the same yard with the same trees every time, but it’s nice. Time slows down there, as well.
Our dogs, Edgar and Otis, sit out there with us. We drink our coffee and talk. Edgar walks around looking for the hottest sunbeam, and Otis eats the cement and the maple tree spinners until he gags…ah, family.
This summer is just begun, but I know it will soon be done. The trick is to find those places where time slows to a childhood pace. Get to a place where that tick, tick, tick of time can be drowned out by the scolding of squirrels or the arguments of Blue Jays. Watch the birds in your feeder. Wait for the deer to come out for a sunbeam. Remember to go slow.