by Herb Cromwell
Remember when you couldn’t wait for the first day of summer? “No more pencils, no more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks.” Suddenly the stress of exams and the burden of homework were gone. There was no alarm clock, no rush to catch the school bus. Instead of dodging that scary bully on the recess yard, you’d leap at trips to the beach, the local pool or the amusement park.
When I was 8, summer meant endless hours of baseball; we had fields everywhere. After a sandlot game or two, we’d put on a uniform for an evening Little League game. Every day was a holiday. Soon after I retired at the end of 2015, I drove over to my red brick rowhouse neighborhood of the 1950s. The ball fields were still there as I remembered them. My favorite Little League venue was a mini-stadium on a compact lot bounded by streets whose names ended in “Oak.” It hadn’t changed a bit. For reasons a psychologist might explain, I found this comforting.
Back in those Little League days, summer was carefree, but now, as a retired person, I can’t wait for it to end. Yoko Ono said “Summer passes, and one remembers one’s exuberance.” These days I’ll take the exuberance I have left to state parks that, come September, are blessedly empty. I’ll welcome having a section of the movie theater my wife and I will have all to ourselves. We’ll get a chocolate chip cone at the ice cream shop without a wait.
Soon the mosquitoes will die off, the ants will stop crawling out of nowhere, and the cicadas will cease their chattering cacophony. Interstate highways will be less clogged with vacationers. TSA lines at airports will be shorter.
Canada will airmail cooling breezes instead of wildfire smoke. We’ll get a respite from summer heat that is only getting worse. (According to the World Meteorological Organization, the eight years since 2015 have been the warmest on record globally. NASA reported that July 2023 was the hottest month ever.) I can’t imagine summer in Kuwait City or even Phoenix.
For me, the joys of summer began to recede with age. The two-a-day high school football practices in August of 1965 didn’t help. Neither did Air Force basic training in the Texas heat of 1967. In adulthood, the workdays of summer weren’t much different from those of any other season.
In childhood, summer meant freedom of time and freedom from responsibility. Retirement brings those same freedoms, but, for me, they are even sweeter in fall, winter and spring. Autumn, said Winnie the Pooh, is “a time of hot chocolaty mornings, and toasty marshmallow evenings, and, best of all, leaping into leaves.” It’s also football, fewer television reruns, and dare I say it, pumpkin spice.
Winter means snuggling with my wife and cats before the fireplace. There’s a stark beauty to winter, what Andrew Wyeth called “the bone structure of the landscape.” My wife and I avoid the beach in the summer but love it in winter when you might spot a harlequin duck at the Ocean City inlet or thousands of snow geese in Chincoteague. Someday we may even see a snowy owl that sometimes makes a winter visit this far south.
Spring, of course, means flowers and migrating songbirds, baseball and lacrosse, longer days, and streams that are “ripe and filled with rain” (Simon & Garfunkel).
What I love best about seasons outside of summer is that, on most days, kids are in school, parents are at work, and those of us lucky to be retired have the place to ourselves. Summer is not quite the season of my discontent, but the older I get the more content I am when it’s over.