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 bad 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.
One of my dreams as a child was to be able to spend without worrying. My parents grew up during the Great Depression, never went to college, and worked hard all their lives to support us kids and give us a better chance. A big part of this was scrimping, saving and stretching as a way of life. Another factor was debt, mortgaging the farm to pay for the current year’s crop.
I paid my own way through college and graduate school, and worked my way up to a comfortable life. I’ve never been extravagant (although there are those who would argue with that statement), but I’ve enjoyed being able to eat out at will, buy what I wanted within reason, and pay off the bills every month.
Well, the Great Recession has put an end to all that. I don’t mean to say this is as bad as Great Depression–there is no comparison. But current days are a sad change from the good times we have all enjoyed in the past. I have found a number of ways to keep some of the pleasures of affluence without spending much (or, in some cases, any) money. Please share your recommendations!
- The public library. My county has a wonderful library system, with books, DVDs, and music CDs, all for free. My local library also has free lectures, musical performances of surprising quality, and other events.
- Through my library, access to Freegal, which lets you download music for free http://www.freegalmusic.com/homes/aboutus Your library pays for a certain amount of downloads up front for their cardholders, and they are available on a first-come-first-serve basis until the library quota is used up.
- www.paperbackswap.com This is a great way to get rid of books you don’t want any more and get books you do want to read. All it costs you is the postage to send a book to the requestor. Somehow I ended up with more books than I had originally (hmmm), but as a reading junkie, it helps feed my need. And you can set up a wish list with automatic ordering!
- www.restaurant.com Eat. Drink. Save money (their tagline). Users can buy coupons good for $25 or $50 at a subscribing restaurant for as little as $2. Restrictions do apply.
- Tracking down free concerts and performances of other kinds through my local patch.com and organizations like the public library, Jazz Forum Arts (metro New York area), and the local newspapers.
I long to go back to my old, somewhat profligate ways. Maybe that will happen soon. But I intend to keep some of my newer, more frugal habits!