How is it possible for summer to be over when it only just began?
There was almost no spring at all; maybe a few warmish days following a long, dreary, grey winter, and then finally it was summer. But only for a moment. We barely had time to consider the heat index and the humidity, with a sprinkling of those intense summer storms with dark clouds, booming thunder and bright lightning, before the page of the calendar turned again and now summer is over.
Summer is the season for plans and projects, but somehow there is never time enough to accomplish them.
All throughout my childhood, I had big plans, big ideas, big dreams as each summer drew near. I would learn to ride a bike. I would learn to swim. I would lay out for hours every day and finally get a golden tan.
But I didn’t have a bicycle. My little brother had one, but my knees bumped the handlebars on those few occasions when I would wobble around the front yard on it.
And it was a long, hot walk to the Sportscenter pool, and an even longer, hotter walk back home. The misery of the effort was only rarely worth the reward of cooling off in the blue chlorinated waters in between.
And I never managed to lay out on a towel spread across the backyard grass for more than 15 minutes before I was driven back indoors by the sun, the sweat and the insects. So I returned to school every September, my legs pale and my cheeks pink from embarrassment as I lost every contest in which girls held their forearms against one another to see who had the deeper tan.
I dragged those same goals into all the summers of my youth. I never accomplished a single one of them a single time, but always told myself that next summer – next summer would be different.
The summers were never different – but everything else has changed.
I did finally learn to ride a bike, at least well enough to weave my way slowly around the Greenbelt. If you see me coming, however, it would be wise to move out of my way as my steering is not as dependable as you might hope it would be.
I still can’t swim, but the water at Holiday World isn’t over my head so who cares. And on those few occasions when I have the opportunity to go into deeper water, there are two words that make all the difference: Life. Jacket.
And not getting a tan when I was younger was smarter than anyone would have guessed.
…As for the time I spent not learning to ride a bike, not learning to swim and not getting a tan – well, that turns out to have been time well spent; very well spent indeed.
Sometimes I started a book early in the morning and finished it late at night. I read mysteries and adventures that kindled a spark of curiosity and courage within my own spirit.
I read – don’t laugh – I read books on etiquette. I don’t know why they intrigued me so, but they did. I studied the rules for a proper table setting, even though I was skeptical that so many forks actually existed. I memorized how, whether and when to stand when someone else entered the room; how to introduce myself or others; how to write a proper thank-you note to my hostess after a visit. Not that I ever saw or did any of these things in real life, but I’ve never regretted learning what would be correct if I ever needed it.
I wrote. A lot. Short stories and books, filling entire spiral notebooks with ridiculously melodramatic tales of action and adventure, and melancholy poems.
They were awful.
I never let anyone read them then, and I sure wouldn’t now.
But here’s the thing.
My summers never turned out the way I expected them to, the way I wanted them to.
But neither did my life.
And as it turned out, my unplanned summers prepared me for all the seasons of my unplanned life, after all.