Summer vacation

When I was at the gym today, waiting to get started, I was watching part of the Little League World Series on ESPN and had an interesting internal dialog that went something like this:

I wonder how these kids get time off from school to play in the World Series. They must have program for that or something since it’s been going on for so long now.

Oh, wait, it’s summertime, so they aren’t in school. But then, how do they manage to get the time off work?

Of course, these kids aren’t working yet. They are too young, they don’t have jobs. This is their summer vacation. Now how could I have forgotten about that?

How indeed. I got to thinking about summer vacations, a-la the kind we used to have back when we were in school. My last true summer vacation was the summer after 9th grade, the summer of 1987. And it occurred to me that was nearly 20 years ago.

Still, thinking about summer vacation bring back all kinds of happy memories, of little things you forget about unless you really focus on them (kind of like how thinking about school brings back memories: remember tardy bells?). Summer vacation, when I lived in New England, meant going to day camp, which could be fun, depending on the activities they had planned. Summer vacation when I moved to L.A. meant heading back to New York to spend 6 weeks with my grandparents–which I absolutely loved!

Summer vacations meant sleeping in late, and then getting up and lazing around the TV for a while, watching reruns of shows that to this day, remind me of summer: The Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, Flipper, Leave It To Beaver. You never thought about going back to school. It was too far away. You never thought about being late to work because you were too young to work. There were no anxieties, no worries. The worst stresses were figuring out what you were going to do an a particular day: play ball, watch TV, go swimming.

I started working in the summer of 1988 and so my summer vacations, in the purest sense, came to an end when I was 16 years old. It’s been 18 years since I roamed free and carefree during the long summer months, and during that time, school and work and the Daily Grind attempt to erase such things from your mind. But I can remember them every now and then, when I try really hard.

On the bright side, you really can’t say that those halcyon days are gone forever. Youth, yes. Carefree innocence, sure. But sometime in the future, I will retire (sooner, rather than later, I hope) and those days will be back. The sunset years of our lives are, in fact, one big summer vacation. Perhaps this is why so many seniors move to warmer climates. Imagine having the whole day to yourself, every day, without worries of work or school. You could do whatever you wanted. You could, if you chose, go back to school, or even work, but it would be your choice.

Yes, the summer vacations fade from memory, just like the fading sound of “first bell”. But though faded, they are still bright with summer sunshine. One of my best summer memories is wandering through the air conditioned Granada Hills Public library, scouting for books. I pick up Piers Anthony’s Race Against Time (this is before I knew who Piers Anthony was). I check out the book and then head to the park next to the library. I find a bench in the sunshine, and sitting on the bench, back propped against the brick wall of the recreation building, I begin to softly turn the pages, with the warm sounds of summer park chaos in my ears.

Yeah, I miss summer vacations. Don’t you?