June 21st, according to my calendar, is the first day of summer, but it’s wrong. Oh, it may be accurate for the seasonal calendar, separating spring and fall, but it’s almost a month late in the eyes of a child. In our town, summer began at 1:15 on May 22nd; at least, it did to the 8-year old who really hasn’t grasped the concept of a calendar, yet. She understands her birthday and Christmas, but not the divisions of the seasons. To her, the year is only divided up into school and summer break. I envy her.
At 1:15 that final bell rang, the last she would have to hear for three months. Papers were tossed into the air, books abandoned, and school clothes packed away. Ironically, it was the only day of the school year that I didn’t have to wait for her to meander to the car for the ride home.
Nothing had really been done that day except desks cleaned out and cupcakes devoured. It’s a transitional day, shifting young minds from studious behavior to free abandon. There’s no early to rise for they could care less about being made wise. She only cares about sleeping in, catching up on television, tormenting the cat and floating in the pool with friends. Again, I envy her.
Summertime brings about an entire transformation of mindset, and it started when we were children. We are busting out of the hibernation that winter brings, eager to stretch our adventures and explore. For nine months we’ve had strict structure with penalties if we arrived late. Yet, for three months everything relaxes and there is time to breathe. It’s not just the children who shift gears, no longer stressing about homework or math tests. Even adults are more relaxed. We want to join in the fun, toss the Day Planner, slip on the bathing suit and dive in. We move from the sofas to the back patios and the sweet tea and lemonade comes out in pitchers.
Oh, don’t misunderstand me; work continues. The mortgage company requires those monthly installments, after all. However, we tend to put off the more pressing engagements for the school year. Even the 8-year old’s Girl Scouts have taken the summer off. Families are taking vacations and exploring the world around them. Attendance in everything, including church, is down because we have been cooped up too long and need to bust loose. The dress shoes are packed away and the flip flops are brought out; not that we’ll wear them much. We’ll be in the pool or at the beach.
We want to escape! And we do. Last year, 45% of Americans took a summer vacation and 1/4 of the travelers on our roads took at least three if not more weekend trips during these special three months. On Independence Day alone there were 35.5 million people traveling by car. (I try to avoid the roads on that day.) Furthermore, most prefer to vacation and sightsee those months rather than visit family or friends, making the most of their time off. I can’t say I blame them as visiting relatives, while fun, is never really relaxing. It’s almost like being back home.
Summer months also bring about the day trips. This was one of my parents’ favorite escapes. At six or seven in the morning, my sister and I would be loaded into the car, still groggy-eyed and comatose. When asked where we were going, Dad would reply with something like “Your mom wants to have lunch at TheMonk’s Vineyard” or “Your mom wants to have dinner at The Kapok Tree.” The first was in St. Augustine, two hours away from where we lived, and the other was in Clearwater, three hours away. Of course, we didn’t just go and eat; we explored the cities, as well, making the most of each day.
There were also many days that we would pack the car with fishing poles and a loaded cooler and drive forty-five minutes to the Sebastian Inlet for a day on the river. We’d pop in and tour some of the state parks, such as Long Pointe, along the way, taking our time, enjoying just being out of the house. Summertime marked the end of our hibernation.
It also brings a loosening of structure. We’re not as worried about the 8-year old getting to bed on time and she is quite happy not to be woken up for school. We tend to do more, because we’re not as worried about the clock during these months. Not that we aren’t active during the winter, because we are with Scouts, sports, and school activities. However, now we’re doing things we want to do as opposed to things we have to do. And we have to do those things because our children want to do them. Yet, being on our own timetable, having our own adventures, is part of the fun and freedom of summertime.
Don’t waste these months, not even one day. Winter’s shackles are gone. Break away and do an adventure of your own. Everyone needs some Summertime Messing before the call of the structured school bell rings, so kick off the dress shoes and explore. These days won’t last forever.
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