Where Did the Summer Go?

When I was a child in Tennessee, summer started by Memorial Day and ended around the third week of August when we went back to school.  My elementary school was not air conditioned, and we sweltered in class until at least the middle of September.  In those badPlaid_1950s_Shirtwaist_dress old days girls were not allowed to wear pants or shorts to school.  Some clever retailer invented “dark cotton” dresses, knee-length dresses in plaids and fall colors but made of lightweight cotton so you didn’t faint in the heat.  Those dresses did duty until well into October with a light sweater if needed.  Often it wasn’t, and even Halloween was still warm weather.  Patent leather shoes and white anklets completed a girl’s school wardrobe, which we went shopping for in the dog days of August.

Summer here doesn’t seem to end until mid-September.  The kids are back to school after Labor Day, but the outdoor grill at the boat club on the Hudson hangs on for a few more weekends, weather permitting.  Yet all the free outdoor concerts and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival are done by Labor Day weekend.  And I can see the days getting shorter as we move toward the autumnal equinox.

Where did the summer go?  Mine seems shorter than usual to me because I started a new job and did not take a vacation.  That said, I did do some of my favorite summer things:  went to the Jazz Forum Arts concerts at Lyndhurst a few times (two more opportunities, weather permitting); had picnics at those concerts with friends, and a lavish French-style picnic with a group of gourmet friends; went to Hudson Valley Shakespeare twice; and saw Justin Peck’s Dance Americana at Kykuit, a truly magical evening.  I also saw a dance performance at the Lincoln Center Festival with a new friend from the new job.  And there were a few dinners and get-togethers with friends, as well as time to collapse on the couch and read a good book (ok, not much time for that!)

I’m going to meet up with my sisters on Labor Day weekend, so the summer will end with a family note.  I’m determined to enjoy these last few weeks, especially when the heat wave breaks.  I hope you are all enjoying the summer and will have a smooth transition into the fall.

 

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Happy New School Year

Photo from Flickr
Photo from Flickr

The start of the school year always feels like the beginning of a new year to me, even though it’s been many years since I boarded that school bus or headed off to college.  September is a time of reflection and remembering as autumn moves in and summer dissolves like the early morning mists.  But there’s still the hope that it’s not too late to plot a new course, try something new, find a better way to go forward.

As a small child in the South, the weather was still punishingly hot when we started school in August, and schools were not air-conditioned.  My main concern then was school clothes.  Girls were not allowed to wear pants (can you imagine?) so we wore “dark cotton” dresses, usually plaids in fall colors but made of cotton so we weren’t too hot.  School supplies involved having the correct pencils, tablets and crayons so you could carry out your assigned tasks.   No computers, book bags or backpacks!

Elementary school was both a delight and a punishment to me.  I never fit in from the very beginning because I had learned to read, write and do basic math at home, so I arrived in first grade ready for second grade.  My mother was adamant that the school should not make me skip a grade because I was small, shy and among the youngest in the class.  So for the first three years of elementary school I sat in the back of the class and did my own work for the next grade, only joining the rest for art, music, phys ed and math.  I never really felt like part of the group, even in later years when I was “tracked in” and joined the rest of the class.

But I learned. I made friends, I got along, I kept working to learn new things and do better.  I wanted to make my parents proud, and I wanted a college scholarship.  All those things came true, and I am grateful.  This was the foundation of the life I’ve had since then.

At this point in my life back-to-school just marks the end of summer.  But it still feels like a time of possibilities and new plans.  Here’s to the new year:  It’s never too late to learn and grow.  My wish for us all is health, prosperity and curiosity!