Last week at dinner, the day after school let out for the summer The Teenager asked me about what summer meant to me now. Now that I'm old, I think he barely stopped himself from saying, but I gave him a graceful out by suggesting our difference was simply that I'm not in school and so I don't get summer vacations. Even though I haven't had a summer vacation since college and haven't had kids in the house until this year, I have a number of teachers in my family and am so tuned to the cycle of the sun that I've always had an awareness of summer's beginning and end. So summer does mean something to me.
Summer means long slow days and long twilit evenings. Going to bed when it is still light outside. Sandals and flip flops and red toenail polish. The smells of hot asphalt and fresh cut grass and the drone of lawnmowers. Strappy cotton sundresses. Garden-gathered bouquets stuck in mason jars in every room.
Summer means popsicles and sticky fingers. Cold watermelon and seed-spitting contests. Fresh corn on the cob and buttery fingers. The season's first peach eaten over the sink with juice running down my chin. Tomatoes straight from the vine and hot from the sun. Fresh pesto made with three kinds of basil. Padding into the backyard barefoot to gather herbs and salad-makings for dinner. Homemade strawberry ice cream out of the old wooden hand-cranked ice cream maker. Burgers off the grill.
Summer means cold beers on lazy hot afternoons. Backyard barbeques with hordes of children running in and out of the house. The sounds of splashing and delight from the neighbor's pool. Sandy feet and salt-licked hair. Skin slick from sunscreen.
Summer means buying sweet bing cherries on the side of a country road and eating them with my bare feet stuck out the window of my best friend's Westie and the wind in my hair. Stargazing snuggled under blankets in the back of my pickup truck. The dusty hot smell of hiking in California's golden hills.
Summer means stretching out and slowing down. Taking time for pleasure and for dreaming. For road trips with loose destinations and time to get lost. Juicy novels and sunbeams to read them in. I remember the excitement of the last day of school, long days of summer stretched ahead of me. But even though I don't have the hard dates of school terms to bracket it, even now that I'm "old," I still think summer is magical.