I see it in my children most of all. This time of year their schoolmates, restless and tired of schoolwork and routine act up and make the day that much more difficult. The teachers are also growing tired and perhaps do not act fairly in all situations, which frustrates and provokes my teenagers and their friends, whom I am sure are a bit testy and impatient in return. As the year's activities come to an end we celebrate with recitals and concerts, tournaments and lunches out for parent volunteers. The very things that kept us and our children motivated, busy and happy all year long, become, if not tiresome, just one more thing to keep track of. By the end of June, our schedules winding down, we make room on our calendars for completely different events: summer barbecues, impromptu beach days, family road trips and berry picking; easy mornings with coffee on the deck and a run before the heat of the day sets in and frosty drinks in the afternoon before a light supper of salads and fresh bread from the farmers market.
I remember well from my own childhood that sense of completion of yet another school year. The summer seemed to stretch endlessly in front of me, formless and beautiful and full of light. Full of endless possibilities. Once I was old enough to be let loose on my own I spent day after day with friends at the beautiful shady parks and sandy beaches of our hometown. And those days, as I remember them, were hot enough to think of frying an egg on the sidewalk. We would walk the mile or so down to the beach and spend the day sunning ourselves on the hot, dry sand in between dips in the refreshingly cold glacier fed lake. If we had a bit of money we would buy drinks or popsicles from the canteen in the park above the beach. If we had lots of money we went for ice cream at the Dairy Queen up the street. If we had no money we would bring snacks from home. When the sun began to travel towards the western mountains we would pack up our beach bag with our sun lotion if we had any, our towels and books, and begin the long uphill trudge back home in our bathing suits and shorts. By the time we reached Gyro Park our backs would be dripping with sweat from the heat, the moisture gathering at the waistband of our shorts. Until we were twelve we could go in the pool, and it was free of charge - and still is. The water was freezing but we would dive straight in, the enveloping cold more welcome than anything we could imagine at that moment. Refreshed once again, we would make the final trek home, just a few blocks more. On very hot days, I would go under our garden sprinkler while I waited for the call for supper. I practically lived in my bathing suit in those summers, and it was glorious.
|The beach where I spent much of my summer holidays|
Sometimes the thunder clouds would spend three days gathering enough energy to burst forth into wild and wonderful thunder storms. Those days were a collection of gathering heat and humidity, of crankiness and the seeking out of electric fans and cool rooms below. The storm would hit in the evening, usually when one of us was in the bathtub scrubbing the summer dirt off the soles of our feet - a nightly ritual. The lightning would crack and flash, followed within seconds by a clap of thunder so mighty as to sound just above the peak of our rooftop. We counted the seconds between lightning and thunder and that equalled in miles, we were told, the distance of the storm from us. My dad would race up the stairs and tell whomever was in the tub to get right out before they were electrocuted. A few more claps of thunder and the heavy rain would begin. The rain was warm like bath water and often we would run outside to play in it while it washed our limp and dusty gardens clean. The air was unmistakably fresh and new after a storm and we all perked up like watered flowers the next morning after a cool sleep on the screened-in sunporch.
The summer days of my childhood appear like an album of faded 1970's photographs in my mind. A troupe of fit and tanned children wearing cut-off jeans and cotton tank tops hiking up to Pulpit Rock or to our family's secret spot for picking huckleberries. Nana and Grandad coming for their annual visit, arriving in their Cadillac and staying a the Viking Motel. Grandad taking the boys fishing while Nana talked over the price of strawberries with my mother in our kitchen. Hamburgers cooked on the hibachi and served with my mom's good bean salad and Nana's Raspberry Mallow dessert. The summer I watched the Olympic Games from beginning to end because it rained all of July that year - I sat on the sofa in front of the small portable black and white TV cheering on the competitors. I've been a fan of the Games ever since. My brothers water skiing with the neighbours, my older sisters in their bikinis soaking up the sun on their days off from summer jobs. Oh, those halcyon days.
There is more talk of year-round schooling here. Gone would be the traditional long Canadian summers, forever a welcome break for children all across this land. Would a month of holiday be enough for our children in summer? I don't know. Children can get used to anything. I do know that the two month summer is long enough for my children to feel ready and even excited to face another year by the time September arrives. By then they are ready, and so I am ready, to begin another cycle of school days, activities, and prescribed routine. For now, though, enough rain, enough busy-busy. Hang me out to dry in the sun!