A few days ago was the first day of summer, the solstice, or sun standing still.
Its beginning brings to mind a time when summer unofficially began on the last day of school. A time when summer meant endless play for what seemed like endless days. As a young boy we'd play baseball at the park down the street until it got so dark one could hear the ball but not see it, and at the older but still youthful age of seventeen we'd play basketball in the parking lot of the local high school long past sunset.
The last day of school was like standing on a cliff overlooking an ocean that went on forever. We knew the ocean ended in September but for now land was out of site... and mind. Thankfully, I still see and hear that hopefulness in my grandchildren and I cringe at the utilitarian notions of year-round schools, whatever that utility may be.
Back then there were no electronics to keep a child inside and television was a black and white, three-channel medium whose day time broadcasts consisted of soaps, game shows, and westerns. Air-conditioning, that which keeps any sensible person inside these summer days, was still a few years away, so to escape the house-held heat we children sat outside in the shade, and for the fortunate near a lake, the ocean, or a swimming pool.
Most of the time cooling off was done with the hose and a sprinkler. I recall lying on the sidewalk after getting doused and listening to the water sizzle on the hot concrete right under my ear. There were activities but almost none generated by mom and dad who had an easy solution for lying around the house causing trouble which was "find something to do or I'll find something for you" which meant work.
Boredom was a part of summer life and accepted. It seems children aren't allowed to be bored today, every moment of their lives filled with some constructive activity to make them a better person, or athlete, or artist, or scientist. I recall summer days riding our bikes as far as we could from home trying to get lost. The only purpose was the adventure of finding our way home. Now to be fair, my mother's disengagement probably had more to do with the fact that we were allowed to roam the neighborhood, she knowing that we would be gone all day and home for dinner. Mothers don't have that luxury today. When all the bike riding and ball playing were done we'd sit with a friend on a step or a swing, not saying much or doing much but altogether happy knowing we weren't in school. That was summer for us. And the beach. There was always the beach.
It is nostalgia, I know, and romantic, I know, but on these first days of summer it does recall the memory of waiting for that last bell to ring on that last class on that last day of school . . . and jumping into summer.