Lies, Damn Lies, and Summer

Me at work last summer, in my "summer office," aka the kitchen.

Me at work last summer, in my “summer office,” aka the kitchen.

When I begin, somewhere around this time of year, to clear my throat in preparation for my annual end-of-school-year, start-to-summer rant, my kids roll their eyes at best (“here she goes again!”) and, at worst, have brief moments of panic that I might cancel summer camp and enroll them in summer school instead. Because for what it entails, summer vacation is way too long.

Listen, I love the idea of a relaxed pace, bare feet on cool grass, and no homework. But does that actually exist, at least, enough of the time?

Those who drink the iced Kool-Aid and wax rhapsodic about the endless, gorgeous joys of twelve weeks of summer vacation (when you have kids, jobs, and poison ivy in the backyard) are lying to themselves and everyone else.

Lies we tell:

No school! We’ll all get to sleep in. Let’s see. In this house, my husband is still up at anywhere between 4:30 and 5:15 to get to work. My kids are still up at anywhere between 6:30 and 7am, exactly the same as they’d be on school days when, this past year, they didn’t have to be at the bus until 8:50am anyway. All that happens in longer mornings is that there’s more time for my boys to bug the crap out of each other. Which is one reason I’m glad camp starts earlier than school did.

We will do fun, local staycation-y things! One benefit of living on a long, skinny island is that I have access to chilled out north-shore beaches on one side, and south-shore ocean beaches on the other. And I like the beach! But not every day. Ditto museums, hiking trails, amusement parks, fireman’s fairs, and historic sites. I have neither enough money nor enough stamina to pretend we can fill a summer with all that and a cherry pie. 

Summer’s all about catching fireflies and playing outside with neighborhood pals and sprinklers and pools and ice cream. I could say that was a description of my childhood, and it’s true as far as it goes, but that’s memory, and memories are tricky. Besides, the 70s are over, but good. The ice cream man has to fight for street space with lawn-care trucks, and the kids are either in the A/C inside, or on an outing, or away on vacation. And my mother didn’t have deadlines.

I will tend our garden and my kids will learn to love salads we grow. Okay, so the little guy will eat tomatoes until they come out of his ears, but none of us have the garden gene, I’m afraid. By August, I’ve all but ceded control of the yard to the weeds. They win. Them and the mosquitoes.

Summer movies! Can I say this simply? Most summer cinematic fare, like most autumn, winter and spring fare, is aimed at men between 18 and 30 (mentally).

So. Summer vacation is nearly here and I’ll still be packing lunches (for camp) and dealing with backpacks (though filled with wet bathing suits, not math worksheets); I’ll still be at this computer trying to cobble together a living; still shopping and cleaning and cooking (if mostly outside). There will be a lot of fun times, pool parties, ice cream, watermelon, and beach visits.

But anyone who’s telling you that their summer is twelve weeks of carefree? Lying.