The steam rising off of the pool in the morning is a reminder that another summer has passed. This summer was embroidered with many happy moments associated with Mike’s wedding, and I scarcely indulged in my special brand of indolence. Now, too soon, I am mourning the disappearance of summer possibilities. When I was young, my mom assigned summer chores before we could leave the house. Every day we vacuumed and dusted the house, did the laundry and ironed. Sometimes we swept the patio and washed the windows. Even with eight of us living in 1800 square feet, the house did not require this level of cleaning. The tasks, however, served a valuable function. As soon as we were finished, we evaporated so as to escape further duty. Mom got some peace, with a clean house to enjoy it in. I can remember taking a Nancy Drew book and heading to a willow tree to hide out and read. We did not watch TV at the Joliat household, and so the joys of summer were often found on the run. Even with hours of domestic servitude, summer felt like freedom.
To avoid getting tapped for further domestic duty, we joined summer programs at the public school. Jenny and I created a drawer full of looped potholders. We made key lanyards out of plastic laces, though we had no need of a key, since no one locked a bike, or a house for that matter. We filled shelves with ridiculous figurines that we painted(badly). We headed to the liquor store with coins filched from the milk money jug and bought licorice and wax lips from a grumpy old man named Jake. He would growl at us, but nothing would get between us and our penny candy. Lunch was informal- often tomato sandwiches on white bread with mayo and pepper. Then we would scurry away before we inherited any afternoon jobs, especially babysitting for the younger Joliats. At dinnertime, Mom would ring a bell with the special family shorthand- two dings, a pause, and a final ding- and we would race home for dinner. Then we did dishes while Mom read the Detroit News. When we were in single digits, Mom sent us up to bed while the neighborhood was still buzzing. She had black out shades to obscure the fact that there was daylight left in the day. The attic fan did not block out the happy sounds outside, and eventually we were allowed to stay out until dark. As long as we were not underfoot, and Mom and Dad had a sliver of quiet time, they were content.
Still, I know she counted the days until we were back in school. We counted them with dread. No infusion of new clothes, school supplies and classmates could console me at the loss of summer freedom. I still like life deconstructed. Perhaps that is why my home is always just a little messy. And maybe that is why I was always sad to march the boys back to the classroom in August. There are joys to be had if you just stay on the move, free to dip into whatever comes your way.
Autumn is the giant stop sign for a free ranging person.
I turn away from August’s hardy mums. The school displays that pop up in July make me wince. The sight of busses practicing the routes forces me to look at the neighborhood kids with pity. The cooler nights remind me of the bare trees that will arrive in 3 weeks. The dark mornings and short evenings feel like loss to me. I am a summer spirit, trapped in the midwest.
The pool will be covered this week, and I will try to forgive myself for failing to swim every day or hot tub every night. The yard will be ugly. I will let my potted plants commit suicide. I will acknowledge that I never rode my beloved bike because my new knee is still unstable. Maybe next year- but it is so far away. I have an entire winter to ride the exercise bike, but it will not take me to Starbucks. Or anywhere fun.
I will shift my summer clothes to a spare bedroom, and drag out my sweaters and long pants. I try to remind myself that winter clothes cover more of my problem areas. I have ordered a pair of boots as my seasonal “back to school” wardrobe updater, though I doubt I will look fresh. That is because Autumn starts green, then turns fiery and vivid, and ends gray and tedious. Just like me.
I will cope, of course. I have dragged a portion of my Halloween witch collection downstairs to celebrate the new season. I strung orange lights in my silk bamboo tree, and have celebrated my birthday repeatedly. Steve heeded my whining, and birthday gifted me with an I-Pad, which I have loaded with all my Kindle library, as well as a few new I Books. I am preparing to nest. For the remainder of Daylight Savings Time, however, I will cling to my summer spirit. It suits me.
And of course, November marks the beginning of my magic holiday season. I am already contemplating my Christmas decorations and my Thanksgiving plans. I will be stable until the first week of January. Then, watch out.
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