Friday, August 3, 2018

The Last Day of Summer

For the first two decades of most of our lives, the beginning and end of summer are easy to define; summer starts when school lets out and ends when it starts back up again. And while carefree months of childhood play would eventually give way to increased household responsibilities and summer jobs, the passing of the seasons was always marked by “back to school.”

For adults, summer is less clearly defined, a little squishier around the edges. I’ll never forget the first time this fact of life dawned on me. I was out for an evening bike ride on a quiet country road the August after I graduated from college. It was the time of year that for as long as I could remember I’d started thinking about the new school year, shopping for school supplies and new “school clothes.” But that year there would be none of that, and as I looked off down that long country road, straight and flat to the horizon, I felt a weird sense of panic at the idea that there would be no more back-to-school, no more sharply defined pivot points, no more opportunities to start over with a clean notebook, a full pen and a new pair of jeans. The sheer length of that road seemed an almost unbearable journey without the way-points and mile markers to which I had become accustomed.

These days, as quite a bit of that road lies over my shoulder, should I care to look back at it, the passing of another summer is marked more subtly. The Hall of Fame football game was last night, and the Panthers first pre-season game is next week. The garden is past its peak and sliding into its long decline toward winking out with the first frost. Stores are placing the red-white and blue knickknacks of Memorial Day and the 4th of July on clearance to make room for the orange and black doodads of Halloween.

For the last few years, my neighborhood has held a summer pool party in early August, a week or two before the start of school, and that has become, for me, the dividing line between summer and what comes after. Here in the North Carolina Piedmont, it will be another 10 weeks before fall is in the air weather-wise, but make no mistake about it, the last day of summer is nigh.

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