The End of Summer?

Published in The Barrington Times on Wednesday, September 9, 2015

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“How was your summer?” I asked my friend, Jen, before spin class at a local gym.

“It’s been great! How is yours?”

“It was great. Too bad it’s over,” I moped.

“Julie, there are still two more weeks left before Labor Day! Summer’s still here!” She mused.

She’s correct, of course. The date was August 26th, the sun was shining and it was 85 degrees outside. Scientifically speaking, the season of summer is defined as the period of time between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox, and August 26th of 2015 is right in there.

But August 26th of this year was also the first day of school.

I don’t care what Jen has to say about the subject. If I’m walking the dog at 6:45 am and circling back to make lunches, it’s just not summer anymore.

I shook my head sadly and explained my reality to my friend: that season was past tense to me now.

Sure, it may still be technically summer in the Western Hemisphere, but, in my house, it is full-on fall. Bring on the crazy! I have carpools to drive and homework to oversee and cheerleading schedules to adhere to. There are still tennis lessons to arrange and piano lessons to arrange and preparations to make for religious school and film school and jazz dance classes.

(Note to self: remember to buy size four jazz shoes before next Saturday! Second note to self: ask someone where to buy size four jazz shoes!)

And ukelele! Is Andrew still into ukulele?

Don’t get me wrong: I love being a mom and I love having a busy household. I even love the fall season. The crisp morning air makes me romanticize the possibilities of a new school year, of buying soft, bulky sweaters and fresh notebooks, of meeting teachers that you hope to impress even though last year you kinda stunk at math, and of crushing on a cute boy from across the cafeteria.

But, as a transplanted New Yorker, I am here to tell you that the month of August is sacred. August is supposed to be all summer, from the first day to the last. There is no school to be had, ever, in the month of August.

My New England friends, I love you dearly, but you’ve got this whole back-to-school thing all wrong, and I am not happy about it. Right now, in a parallel universe, I am on a Nantucket beach with my entire family, eating sandwiches on freshly baked Portuguese bread from Something Natural and slathering suntan lotion on my brother’s already-sunburned back. I am supposed to be living a laid-back, late-summer life, not complaining about it on my Mac from my home office.

There is only one person on the entire planet who has it worse than I do, so I immediately contact her to commiserate.

“These are not the Augusts of yore!” I text.

“Long gone!” She texts back from St Louis. “Can’t talk now!” Lisa, a native New Yorker like myself, is mostly unavailable for comment these days. Why? Because she is a teacher, and school started in St Louis so long ago, she is practically gearing up for midterms right now. Midwestern schools begin so ridiculously early that Lisa has to pull her kids out of (a New-York centric) camp before Color War. Before Color War, people.

True, she gets a long summer vacation, beginning before Memorial Day and extending through August 10th. But, Lisa finds, and I agree, that there is something deeply ingrained in us New Yorkers about August being an untouchable summer vacation month. When you grow up with that internal calendar and then have to readjust in your 40’s, your circadian rhythm gets thrown off.

I am telling you, it is nearly impossible for me to think normally until September.

So, when does your summer start and end? This is a conversation I was having with my husband, Brett, all summer long. Does it really begin for you on Memorial Day? Or, do you start feeling it more around the 4th of July? Is the commencement linked to an activity or place, like the day you move into the beach house or take a first sail on Narragansett Bay? Is it ritualistic, like the day you first take a dip in the ocean, or sit outside to eat fried clams at Blount’s?

For me, the answer is a nuanced set of personal rites of passage, including seeing fireworks on my birthday and going to Aunt Carrie’s for clam cakes, from reading a pile of novels on the beach to noticing a tan line around my watch band and getting a fresh pedicure to show off my toes.

But no matter when it starts, that slippery slope into the lazy, hazy days of summer always ends the same way: with the abruptly jarring bell ringing in the first day of school.

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