When I was growing up, summers were long and lazy. Until I was fifteen, I didn’t go to camp or any other organized activity. We didn’t have a vacation home. Summer was for staying home and figuring out how to manage my time.
I’m grateful I had those seasons, which looked endless from the vantage point of June. I had two assets that have become incredibly precious since then: time and leisure. Summer was the only time of year that I didn’t have to get up before six AM, attend classes, do homework.
The stories I made up (and often acted out) to fill those days were good for at least two things: they opened up the creative outlet that became writing, and they taught me how to entertain myself, how not to rely on external sources. I did have library books and TV, but my TV-watching was rationed by parents who wanted me to get fresh air, and I could plow through a stack of library books within a couple of days of checking them out. Sometimes I played games or swam, but mostly play time was about making up stories. I made up stories for my sister and me to act out, stories for our dolls, stories for the plastic animals we played with. I began to write some of them down.
Every August, when the back-to-school shopping started and the back-to-school ads haunted the airwaves and the Sunday paper, I would feel the cold shadow of fall creep up on me. Fall was darkness, alarm clocks, a return to rigidly scheduled life. August was the sunset of summer, the final golden days of freedom. August was the month when I realized summer really was finite. But in August, the cicadas and the crickets still sang; it was still warm enough to go barefoot. Summer was ending ... but not yet.