Summer Redefined

Today’s guest post is from Linda at Adventures in Expatland. Linda writes prolifically and brilliantly about her life in the Netherlands and the expat experience. I’m certain she was a spook for the CIA in her former life, though she denies it. ‘If  I told you,’ she said, ‘I’d have to kill you.’ Here she writes about the glories of summer. When I read her post, my own childhood memories came flooding back. Remember the days when summers lasted forever? These days, the years just fly by. At this rate, it won’t be long before I’m six foot under.

Linda

Growing up as a child in upstate New York back in the US, summer was a gloriously sunny season that seemed to go on and on. That is, when it wasn’t raining. Which wasn’t all that often, but still. After morning chores were completed, my days were generally my own, filled with swimming, riding bikes, the annual family vacation. More than anything else, summer meant just hanging out with friends.

We finished the school year in mid-June, and didn’t have to report back until the day after Labor Day. Since this national holiday must fall on the first Monday in September, that usually meant we headed back to school sometime during the first week of the month. The entire months of July and August were summer, pure and simple.

A few times I recall the thrill of September 1st arriving on a Tuesday. That meant that in those special years Labor Day Monday would fall on the 7th, and we didn’t have to go to school until the 8th. The 8th! I still recall that magical feeling that we’d somehow wrangled a few extra precious days of summer.

As I got older and moved around the country a bit, I learned that school districts in other cities and towns had sizable leeway in setting their school calendars. When we lived in Arlington, Virginia (outside of Washington DC), the local school district chose to cut back on a few vacation days during the year to allow children to finish earlier in June, yet they still adhered to the day after Labor Day as the start of the new school year.

Imagine Son and Daughter’s dismay the year we moved further south to North Carolina: school started and ended two weeks earlier. Their summer freedom that year was shortened by two full weeks. They were livid. I recall unpacking boxes in our new home to the sweltering chorus of Two full weeks! We’ve been robbed. Cheated!

Let me tell you: Handel’s Messiah it wasn’t.

We settled in, and for five years it was fine. Then we moved to The Netherlands. And you’ll never guess what we learned. (Yeah, right, like you couldn’t see this coming a mile away.) Their international school started one week – all together now – earlier than their schools back in North Carolina.

Go figure.

I’d like to say that they handled it better this time because they were older, more mature, and guided by my stellar parenting skills. Actually, it was because Son and Daughter were so bored not knowing anyone and so overwhelmed with culture shock that they were happy to get back into the school day grind just to meet others who could help them make sense of their new world. Oh, and we didn’t have cable television at home yet.

With school starting August 17th this year, I’m going to be at home by myself during the final days of August. And what will I be doing? Working, of course. Except for those extra special days of fabulous weather when I reclaim summer and steal away for a few hours, riding my bike on beautiful trails to the beach.

Shhhhh…don’t tell the kids.

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18 thoughts on “Summer Redefined

  1. What a lovely piece! Yes, I remember endless summers in Britain (or in France, on family exchange programs) – we always went to the seaside and spent many hours poking around in the mud, throwing seaweed at each other, and imprisoning small helpless fish in glass jars (they never survived). The length of the holiday is so vitally important at that age, isn’t it? I think kids, teens especially, have a different concept of time to us adults. Our son spent most of his high school days at a U.S. boarding school (we live in Jamaica) and I remember the steadily increasing air of gloom as the time approached for him to get on a plane and leave our little island and all the home comforts behind… But as soon as he got off the plane in Boston, he was fine of course. Thanks for the blog post – and the lovely photos too!

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    1. When we were younger the summer days would crawl by, and we didn’t mind. A day at the beach, as you described, was chockful of little discoveries and adventure. It was only as we approached the return to school – like your son – that it seemed that the summer had flown by. All we wanted, all my children have ever wanted, was just another week. One more week. And thank you for subscribing!

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      1. But then when they do get that extra week, what do they do with it? They just fritter it away like they have done all the others… and they are still glum at the end of it…and want MORE! Such is childhood.

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  2. My summers Down Under began the week before Christmas and ended around the first week of February – somewhere between 6-7 weeks during which time we had:

    – Carols by Candlelight (essential Christmas Eve telly)
    – Christmas Day (yes there were prawns)
    – the Boxing Day Test (cricket) or Sales (whichever floats your boat)
    – the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race (and little sister Melbourne to Davenport)
    – New Year’s Eve/Day (blended into one as I got older)
    – the Australian Open Tennis (thwack, thwack); and
    – Australia Day (Australians all let us rejoice – with a barbie).

    before we all donned our hats and sunscreen and trudged back to school.

    But the days in between were filled with beach, beach and more beach…sigh!

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    1. You sure packed a lot of celebration into your summer vacation even before you ever made it to the beach! It’s hard to imagine Christmas in warm weather; we spent only one Christmas as newlyweds with my in-laws in Florida, and after that we visited earlier or later. Then again, you’ve had to get used to Christmas in cold weather, haven’t you?

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      1. Yes Linda but there’s a romance and magic for me about a cold Christmas now. Cold crisp days with blue blue sky are the best. And in spite of spending with family in Melbourne last year, 40C leading up to New Year had me gasping ‘I really can’t do this any more!’

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    2. Kym, your summers in Oz were identical to mine. I’ve got used to a summery Xmas after being here 5 years and, you know what, I’m starting to forget the cold, grey winter yuletide and have replaced it with a similar itinerary to yours. Not only do we get Christmas, but we also get the start of summer – festivals in Sydney, sports, holidays away. For those that miss the wintry cheer, we just wait until July and head up to the Blue Mountains for a bit of a log cabin and warm fire. It’s all turned on its head and a bit different but, between you and me, quite a bit better 🙂

      PS. Summer officially started with the first day of Spring today 😉

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      1. Russell wonderful memories for me but I love that its a cold Christmas with lights that make the shorter days seem brighter, big roast turkey dinners with all the trimmings (except Brussels sprouts – Yuk!) And even snow. It feels like all the Christmas cards I ever bought.

        It’s kind of perverse that we embrace what we didn’t grow up with isn’t it? What funny creatures we human beings are.

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  3. As always some great comments which I’ve struggled to approve as I wander like a medieval monarch from house to house plundering larders and outstaying my welcome. I’m currently in my landlady’s loft on a laptop that keep freezes and a broadband that’s narrower than a human hair. It would be quicker to use a telex.

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  4. When I first met my dear husband, he was hammering away at a telex machine… That was his job! I can still hear that endless rattling noise… Yes, we’ve been together quite a long while, now! Ah, the memories!

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