As August draws to a close and Labor Day looms as the official end of summer, I feel a shock that the season has already come to a close without my ever having felt as though I’d sunk my teeth into it. That shock of time racing past is no less jarring for it’s familiarity, no easier a pill to swallow.
I find myself increasingly beset by memories of summers past, perhaps my subconscious’s attempt at recovering some part of it all. Days spent pedaling beat-up bicycles to swim practice in the dewy morning, or playing rousing games of Marco Polo or Sharks and Minnows in the deep end of Kingswood Pool. Mat in trouble (again) and made to sit “time out” under the lifeguard stand where the high school boys charged with guarding our collective lives dropped peanuts or M&Ms through the wooden slats into his open, laughing mouth. Dinner on paper plates at a wobbly picnic table, fingers sticky with carmelized bottled bbq sauce and dripping with the melted butter from boiled corn on the cob. Watermelon for dessert and spitting the seeds at each other the moment Mom’s back was turned.
When the sun dipped low on the horizon and aloe had been applied to overly sun-kissed noses, the frantic search for batteries commenced as the neighborhood kids young and old gathered for flashlight tag. Climbing the neighbors’ fences, racing across lawns, sneaking through the dark woods, and screeching in terrified delight when caught, there were no beeping cell phones or bright screens to remind us of the world beyond, and we halted only when a parent called out or used their trademark summoning device (the Conrads had a cowbell and the Tates an old dinner triangle…my Mom had a voice that could always reach us, no additional apparatus necessary).
We fell into our beds, teeth and faces scrubbed, shoulders in six stages of peeling, and we slept heavy and deeply, in the way of bodies spent to exhaustion in joyful abandon. We didn’t know yet what a “beach body” was or whether we had one, we didn’t realize yet that dangerous things could hide in the dark. We ran on strong legs and swam with lithe strokes and we used the gift of long sunlit hours without yet being haunted by “should."
As August wrapped us in the last throes of hot summer, the final weeks of that month would begin including classroom assignments arriving by mail and the purchase of new backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes. The frenetic, energetic freedom of summer would subtly begin to shift toward routines and the potential of new learning. When Labor Day officially tipped the balance into fall, it was once again school nights and bedtimes and homework, and there was a sort of relief and comfort in that as well.
And here I am, again in these same hot summer days of waning August touched with the cool nights of September on her way. I missed summer this year. I spent it packing and purging and scrambling to create a new life and when I looked up, it was slipping toward the horizon. I can accept that…but just this one time.
I will greet September as my old friend and breathe in her promise of freshly sharpened pencils and unmarked notebooks waiting to be filled with ideas and thoughts and wonderings. I will slough off the feeling of having been cheated over the missed summer and pay extra attention to the season I am in, watching carefully for the moment the leaves begin to change hue and gathering apples from trees in my shirttail-turned-bushel-basket. Heck, maybe I’ll even attempt an apple pie in our tiny toaster oven.
These days fly by in the cliche-for-a-reason blink of an eye. I was lucky to have childhood summers full of wild freedom and exuberance. In my adulthood, I must seek that kind of abandon out, take responsibility for creating “summer” as it was meant to be for myself, balanced against the standard obligations and encumbrances of work and home and family and a life that is mine to mold.
Here at the end of this golden, bright August, I inhale the last of these sweet summer days and welcome the chill that harkens the next season…of the year and of my life.
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