Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cruel Summer

I recently stated, to some jeers, that a pet peeve of mine is when peopleask "how's your summer going"? I guess from people who don't really know me I can deal but not from those that know me well. I'm an adult, single, no kids and work a full time job. I'm a well known hater of hot weather and the beach and all that goes along with it. Why doesn't anyone ask how your spring or fall or winter is going? What does summer really mean to me? What does summer really mean at all? Summer, the season falling between spring and fall, starts on June 21st and ends September 21st here in the Northern Hemisphere. I contend that summer is actually a state of mind that exists fondly in our long term memory.

For me, when I think of summer NOW I think hot, I think no one around when you want to do something, I think everyone overcrowding the places I want to be, I think being short staffed at work as all of the people who have families take their vacations then. Summer is simply made for kids. Summer is a time with no school. Period. It exists as a time frame mostly for parents as they know summer is when they schedule their vacation time to spends with their kids which is how it should be. They know that summer, for 2 working parents, is when their scheduled life is thrown off greatly and, admit it or not, they are counting the days until school starts and a return to some form of sanity. Obviously I know there are some single types that love the summer, the heat, the beaches, the summer home or rental, etc but I still feel we are drawn to the concept of summer as that's where our fondest memories of childhood lie. I actually feel bad for kids today as their summers just aren't what ours were

When I was a kid, summers were summers. Even with snow days, school would be out in early June and we wouldn't go back until the Tuesday after Labor Day. Back to school shopping consisted of 2 days (one for me, one for my sisters) of shoe and clothes shopping the last week of August, not the end of July. My mother was a stay at home mom, as were nearly all my friends' mothers so we were kept busy. Mom always found time every week to take all 6 of us plus 4 or 5 other random friends to the beach for the day. She was never too busy to not find time for us. More importantly, she left us to our own devices. There were 2 simple rules; you're not sitting around the house all day and be home before the street lights come on. There was a level of trust both in us and the world that simply doesn't exist now. She knew we weren't just hanging around and anywhere else we went, another parent was present. The first "mom I'm bored" would get your butt kicked out the door. But it was all such good clean fun. Drive-movies. Day trips to North Shore and South Shore beaches. Weekend vacations to Nantasket Beach, Cape Cod, or anywhere we could stay for next to nothing. My most beloved memories of summer as a young man were of the recreation department sponsored school parks. From late June through mid-August these were monitored places for kids up through junior high to "hang out" and be active. There was so much to do from games and crafts to field trips to amusement parks (long before they were theme parks) baseball and softball leagues and much more. As you went to the park at the school you went to, you walked back and forth (imagine that, walking to school) and you had to leave the park for lunch for an hour. Honestly, up through 7th grade or so, that was what summer was to me

Summers changed as we got older ans spending all our free time together as a family unit lost some of it's charm. Mom started working again, we all found summer jobs which were an adventure all its own. Fun around the neighborhood stretched out to all over town and as far as the 77 bus would take us and beyond. Good clean fun gave way to more adult adventures. Sports started shortening the summer as well. By the time I got to college, summer really lost most of it's meaning. I worked at least one job all summer to defray costs (and have beer money) and I honestly missed being away at school as being back home, as much as I loved my family, meant loss of the modicum of freedom living at school brought. My last great memories of summer were post college until around my late 20's of going to the Cape with basically everyone for every Holiday weekend. Then we all got old and had families etc, well, not all of us

As an outside observer, summer just doesn't seem the same for kids. I mean, summer homework? Reading lists? In school until the last week of June? The mega-chains pushing back to school down their throats in July. Day camps and sports camps and the like which, while great, still involve having to be driven back and forth. I'm sure kids don't see it that way tho

So, if you see me, don't ask how my summer is. Ask how I am. Ask how my Red Sox season is going (as that is what I associate most with summer) or, wait until fall and say "so, how's your fall going" and I'll likely tell you "it's going GREAT". (OK, that's probably a little upbeat for me)