I like summer and I hate it. I mean, I understand the appeal of it, but I’m afraid I’m lacking the shared experience. For most people, summers are about three months long, lasting from May to August or from June to September, depending on where you are. In the United States, summer became more than a season when the government found it necessary to give rural children time off to help with planting and picking crops. Then, like any other habit, we found summer hard to quit. What annoys me about summer (and other experiences associated with childhood) is this notion of magic. Summer is supposedly this magical time where kids can ride bikes and shoot water guns at each other and eat ice cream, things you literally cannot do at any other time of the year, apparently.
I don’t mean to sound bitter. Maybe I’m jealous, even though I don’t think so.
When I was a kid, I went to a magnet elementary school. My summer lasted three weeks, somewhere in the middle of July. It wasn’t until I was watching an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures that I realized that other kids in other places had longer breaks. During the summers in middle school, my parents enrolled me at The Boys and Girls Club. Which would’ve been fine if I liked other people. There was one half of that summer, actually, that I spent at my grandparents’ house, reading books over and over again. Summer ‘03 and ‘04 were my only real summers, if I use TV and books as a reference. The only problem is that I don’t really remember them. I spent a lot of time at the library, reading and reading and reading. I could never get enough of books. Sometimes we went to the beach and those times were actually pretty awesome. I’d put on sunscreen and lay out on the blanket reading Anne Rice. Sometimes I swam, but laying in the sun was my favorite part. We used to bring those cheese crackers with peanut butter inside and some boxes of juice to wash them down. Once, a seagull flew off with my cousin’s sandwich and then pooped on him. Seagulls are the worst.
I liked school. Probably a little too much. When I was seven, my grandmother bought a school desk and I used to sit in it and pretend that I was in class. I went crazy over school supplies. I used to pretend that I had homework in the middle of my tiny summers. When I was fourteen, I wanted to go to summer school. I hadn’t failed any classes or anything, but I thought getting ahead would be nice. I would’ve gone too, if they hadn’t wanted to charge me three hundred dollars. In retrospect, that seems kind of weird to me.
In summer ‘05, I did go to summer school. I switched high schools and my new one let me take classes without billing me–which was funny considering all of my classes at that point were at a community college and not the high school itself. Hm. In ‘06, I worked a full-time fast food job. I used to make Philly Cheesesteaks, which are delicious. Summer ‘07 I spent working full-time at my mom’s job. I acted as the receptionist, helped build cabinets, and sorted files. That was kind of fun. Then summer ‘08, I attended the University of Texas as a summer freshman.
To make up for high school, I took every summer in college off. I never went to summer school or even had a job. Sometimes there were reasons. Summer ‘10 and ‘11 I spent in Europe, so getting a job would’ve been pointless. Who would hire someone who was only going to work three weeks? And, yeah, I wanted all the summers I never had in high school, so ’10 and ’11 made up for it.
I tried not to be so lazy in graduate school. I got a job last summer. Now, in the summer of ‘13, I find myself with a job (finally) and gearing up for another school year. And reading, of course. And writing fiction. And writing articles for an awesome website.
My summers have not been like other people’s. I didn’t have a tree fort. I never made water balloons. I didn’t spend every day at the pool. But that’s okay. It’s hard to love summer when you’re in Texas. Texas summer doesn’t mess around.
But even Texas summer can be a gift. The gift of summer is time. You choose how you want to spend it and where. If you get a summer job, someone will pay you for your time. No one pays you for going to school. In May or June, summer stretches out like an ocean. And, while I’m in (hopefully) what is the last real summer for me, I’m determined to enjoy every. Last. Drop.
As I say goodbye to this summer, I invite you to say farewell with me, darling. Do you have a summer story you want to share? Leave it in the comments below.