“How was your summer? Great, how was yours? What did you do?” This is a conversation I find myself in now that kids are back in school, backyard bats start hunting by 8 o’clock, and I need to wear a sweater to sit outside past 7. It is one that I’ve never thought about, until I read a post on the blog Memoir, Writing& Life. The author, who was born outside the U.S., said that for many years she didn’t understand why people always asked her about her summer. She wondered why they ignored the other seasons, since she never heard, “Did you have a good winter?” She drew her own conclusions, which led me to think about mine.
I think many of us look back on our summers as kids. In June, they stretched endlessly before us. Summer for me meant camp, defined as spending a week in rustic cabins with a lot of other kids somewhere in the woods on the edge of a body of water, and having to use outdoor toilets. It also meant bringing home armloads of books from weekly trips to the public library, running through a sprinkler set up in someone’s back yard, searching for treasures on a nearby beach, swimming, playing tennis and bicycling to my friends’ houses, and taking family vacations, in our case to desolate camp grounds on seemingly undiscovered fishing lakes in northern British Columbia, Canada.
As an adult, summer has a different meeting. Juicy peaches, delicate raspberries, tomatoes, figs, and strawberries on my tongue come to mind first, followed by fresh-cut zinnias bursting from vases around the house, and, of course, the sun, which is much more likely to appear here in summer, though it’s not always guaranteed. Sitting on the porch in the back yard, with nothing on my mind but smelling the lavender, finishing a novel and watching the flowers grow is a luxury no other season provides. It’s hard to explain this to someone who persists in asking, “But what did you do?” He or she has forgotten how lovely a season of indulging the senses can be.
What does summer mean to you?
“i never can get interested in things that didn’t happened to people who never lived.” – Helene Hanff
This quotation is found on the website by Annette Gendler you reference in your entry above and it captures for me why I no longer read fiction; but until reading this quotation I hadn’t thought about why. So this summer I read many books but no fiction. Yet summer used to mean a break in my school year or at least a change in my work year. Now that I’m retired i do not read fiction year round, not just during the summer and can indulge my interests every month.
Stillalife – I’m thrilled that my post about “having a summer” inspired you to write and reflect on what summer means to you! What could be more gratifying than inspiring another writer? Small correction, though: I was born in the U.S., I just grew up abroad.
Sharon – glad you liked that quote by Helen Hanff. If you haven’t read 84, Charing Cross Road yet, you should! You can find a review on my blog – it’s a short read and utterly satisfying.