Woke up early on a jet-lagged San Francisco 5 am morning with the world’s oldest canon (England, c. 1200) singing in my head—“Sumer is icumen in, loudly sing cuckoo. Groweth seed and bloweth mead and sing the woods anew. Sing cuckoo…” No cuckoos singing outside nor mead blowing around in the summer fog, but it is officially the first day of summer and that’s always a call for celebration. Ever since I was six years old and the world became divided between nine months of mandatory school and three months of delicious summer freedom, I habitually longed for this day. Over a half-century of jumping for joy when the last school bell rang and shouting “Yippee! Summer!”
Working on my ritual Crostic puzzle on my flight back from Europe, this quote (from Adair Lara’s When the Sun Stood Still) slowly revealed itself:
“…That’s why we still need long school vacations. To anchor kids to the earth, keep them from rocketing too fast out of childhood. If they have enough time on their hands, they might be among the lucky ones who carry their summertime with them into adulthood.”
Growing up in 1950’s New Jersey a half-block from away from 200-acre Warinanco Park, I indeed was one of the lucky ones. Long, endless days with nothing but time on my hands. Time to meander to the lake and skip stones, to climb trees, to play hide and seek or baseball with the neighborhood kids. Amble up to the school playground, that place of too many hours seated at desks turned into—well, a playground! Tetherball, nok-hockey, ping-pong, pie-eating contests (Mr. Salcito still owes me my prize), arts and crafts. Sit on my front steps at night with my cat Zorro purring on my lap, greeting the neighbors passing by and watching the fireflies. Enough boredom to keep my imagination alive and alert, enough activity to mark the day— piano practice, small chores and the reliable bells of the Good Humor man bringing ice cream to our sweaty summer-hot selves.
My own children were lucky too, though their summers were less associated with the fog-burdened days of San Francisco and more with exotic travel—Bali, Salzburg, Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, Fiji, Ghana and more—anchored by the true-summer weeks in the cottage up on Lake Michigan. Clocks thrown away and the days marked by the front lake, the back lake, the beach, the dunes, the canoes, the hikes to the outlet, ice cream in town and the annual pilgrimage to the Cherry Bowl Drive-in Movie. We will all re-unite up there in just two weeks and begin to initiate little Zadie into the delights. For her, every day is summer vacation! But minus the search for Petoskey stones and the sunsets over the water and the thrilling thunderstorms and the family gathered on the deck chairs just drinking in the delicious night air over fresh corn and tomatoes.
And so the longest day of the year has arrived and the door is wide open to the infinite delights of this most marvelous season. Hard to feel the bridge from my hot summer childhoods since it’s shrouded in cold San Francisco fog, but the sun will shine again, if not here, soon in Michigan. Hooray for summer!