Summer’s end comes with a bit of bittersweet sentiment, even here in Texas where three-months can’t contain all the summer allotted to us.
Texas summers often begin in late April, when thermometers begin pushing into the 90s, and stretch way past September, weeks after the calendar says summer is officially over. We often see triple digits as early as mid-May and in late September. By Columbus Day, we’ve typically had more than enough hot, dry, dusty days and welcome anything resembling an autumnal respite.
But something still tugs at me to rue the passing of summer; it’s more sentiment than sense, springing, at least in part, from the lost freedom that accompanied fall and the annual reconvening of school. I hear folks reminisce about their fabulous days of high school—sock hops, new loves, fresh ensembles. I did enjoy football, but dreaded boring math classes in non-air conditioned rooms, wearing my older brother’s hand-me-downs and my complete confusion about how to talk to girls.
I missed the unstructured weeks of exploring the woods near our rural home, fishing and swimming in the creek, reading until way past midnight, and bustin’ watermelons in the field just to eat the sweet heart and leave the rest for the blue jays. The chores—hoeing the garden, cutting the grass, picking and shelling butterbeans—were somewhat onerous but took only a fraction of the three-month summer vacation.
I did dread one week of summer—and I hope God forgives me for this—but I never learned to appreciate Vacation Bible School. I know I needed it! But it seemed such an inconvenient imposition on new-found freedom. Maybe I’m a better person for VBS, but I still think vacation and school should not be used in the same sentence.
So when I began to notice the fox grapes along the creek bed begin to turn from a shiny green to a dusky purple, or to see an occasional yellow poplar leaf skip across the swimming hole in front of a gentle breeze, I knew the inevitable was near. Summer, my freedom, was forfeit, and I faced nine long months of daily incarceration, subject only to short weekends and brief respites for Christmas and spring break.
That’s why, earlier this week, on hearing that a cold front is headed our way and temperatures will drop into the 40s, I felt that small tug of regret that always affects me when I realize that summer is over.
I understand the absurdity of the sentiment. Summer, for the second year in a row, was brutal. We had days and days of 100-degree heat. We had weeks and weeks of drought. We had deadly infestations of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes. My tomato plants died.
For most of the summer, stepping outside seemed like stepping into an oven. Evening temperatures dropped from deadly to merely intolerable. And the mosquitoes came out.
Consequently, this year the small tug of regret, the bittersweet memory of summers past, the sense of lost liberty, has been short-lived. As a gainfully-employed adult, I don’t take summers off. No one makes me go to week-long church events. Watermelons will not grow in my backyard. And there is no creek meandering through the neighborhood. I have little trouble talking to my wife—though females still confuse me.
I am tired of hot weather. I long for a killing frost that decimates the mosquito population. Fall is my new favorite season. Farewell summer. And good riddance!