The solstice in June always makes me melancholy. You may think of it as the first day of summer, but it actually means the days are already starting to get shorter again. It’s midsummer. How did that happen so fast?
I’m not alone with my halcyon memories of summer vacation — days of leaving the house on my bike in mid-morning, tooling around the neighborhood with my pals, making mini dams with mud and sticks in a little creek, eating the smushed sandwich I’d packed for myself and washing it down with a Slurpee, whooping gleefully through the inevitable mid-afternoon thunderstorms plunking heavy rain down on my friends and me, and returning home, sun-dried and dusty, just as my father was pulling the old station wagon into the garage.
As a grownup, I now understand the look on his face as he’d step out of the car, the manly scent of Old Spice just a bit stronger than the garage smells of cedar and oil. The fond smile and warm hug mixed with a mildly overheated exhaustion after muddling through another perfect summer day as a working adult, coming home to his wife, three kids, and big furry dog. He was 29.
It breaks my heart to think I may never having a summer like that again. But it also gives me something to strive for, because, well, screw that. Summer is too wonderful to be squandered with long work days.
Not that I’m shirking my duties, of course — clients, my team, and, of course, my bank account are all counting on me to get more work done and stay focused on the job. I’m fortunate to own the company and have a fairly flexible schedule, but I still feel resentment when I’m stuck in my air conditioned office while summer is going on without me.
And I’m feeling guilty about Simone’s summer, too. There’s no way she’d be allowed to disappear on her own for hours at a time — we don’t let our kids do that anymore. But, when I was nursing my own summertime nostalgia, I realized that Simone is way over-scheduled this year. She had a weeklong writing seminar in a university classroom, and now she’s in week two of a sort of brainiac day camp at a middle school. It’s late June, and she still has the pasty-white glow that comes from more time under fluorescent lighting than summer sun.
She’ll have a week of freedom, and then she’s off to Vegas to visit with her mom’s extended family (she’ll have plenty of hang around the pool time there, thank goodness). After that, it’s 17 days at summer camp. And then it’ll be August already.
So not only do I need to make sure I’m getting the most out of the season, but I need to build in some real lazy summer awesomeness for the girl. She doesn’t even know what she’s missing.
So here’s the deal: it’s time to stop whining and start living. I hear it from all my friends — summer goes by faster and faster, year after year. When we were young, it seemed to go on forever; but as we grow older, we don’t get to wallow in the decadent boredom that deep summer used to deliver. These days, by the time we realize it’s July, it’s already late August and the kids are all headed back to school.
Enough, already. If we don’t reclaim summertime, it’ll keep passing us by.
Here’s how we grownups can take back summer:
1. Spend a LOT more time outside.
I already walk to work and get around on foot as much as possible, but if you’re eating lunch at your desk every day, you’re screwing up. Let’s all commit to finding shady places near our offices, and spending a good hour out there, eating, reading, snoozing, and relishing the warmth. In my corporate days, I packed a placemat and cloth napkin in my lunchbox, in order to make my turkey sandwich seem a little less mundane. I wonder why I stopped doing that.
So eat lunch outside. Take a walk on your coffee break. Take a nap under a tree. Leave work early.
2. Make the most of summer nights.
It’s easy to shuffle home, take off your pants as you walk in the door (well, that’s what I always do), and settle in for the evening. But if you’re not taking an after dinner walk to the little gelato place down the block, or slipping out for leisurely bike ride, you’re squandering the little bit of unscheduled time you actually have.
I remember one summer when my father had already started a job in another city and my mom was left with the three of us to get the house sold and packed. We had a neighbor — a woman who was older than my mom but seemed to be overflowing with energy and enthusiasm for being in the moment — who taught us about the joys of spontaneity. I remember the first night she broke out her Frisbee and had us all playing catch under the street lights in our neighborhood. It seemed so scandalous and magical to be standing in the middle of the street — crickets chirping, stars twinkling, moving to the side of the road for the occasional car — and launching the thing as far as we could to someone else, three houses down. The air was sweet, and I’ll never forgot the asphalt under my bare feet, gently releasing the warmth it had stored up all day long. I can’t remember the last time I broke the rules like that with Simone — staying out after dark, playing hide and seek or shadow tag.
So let’s be outside every night this summer. Late.
3. Do lots of summer stuff.
You know what I mean — concerts in the park, drive-in movies, picnics, hikes, visits to the pool. I’m not talking about big production activities, like camping or waterskiing (though those should be on your list, too). I mean the easy stuff you could do with minimal planning. It’s all about paying attention to what’s within reach.
4. Wear less clothing. Or more linen. Go barefoot. Or wear flip-flops.
What’s one of the best things about summer? No need for layers! As someone who’d prefer to wear as little as possible, I’m all about summer-weight clothing. Because shorts aren’t always appropriate when I’m working/speaking/pitching, I tend to wear a lot of linen and cotton in the summer. Feels almost like wearing nothing at all!
And what’s better than the season of bare feet? If you can’t go completely shoeless, then wear flip-flops whenever possible. That thunk-thunk sound of you walking down the street is a constant reminder that you’re making the most of summertime.
Every time you find yourself about to complain about the heat, take a deep breath and say, “I love summer!” instead.
It’s 103 degrees outside today. You know who’s complaining? Not me. I’ve been out there already, soaking in the heat and relishing the punishing sun. Before we realize it, we’ll be bundling up against the cold, slogging through slushy streets, and crying over 5:30 sunsets.