Some people insist that summer isn’t over until the first day of school. Others go by the calendar. And there are some like my green-thumbed neighbor who goes by Tomato Time: It doesn’t matter what anyone says — after Labor Day the tomatoes don’t get any tastier no matter how much longer you leave them on the vine. And, yes, I know it’s not really a vine.
But no matter how you slice it, these are indisputably the closing days of summer. And this is how you know:
— Driving around, you spot the first tippy-top leaves of some trees beginning to turn yellow.
— The cicadas are droning every day. Thanks to the global-condition-whose-name-must-not-be-spoken, they sometimes even start in July now, but they are still a harbinger of things to come.
— And when you take it into your head to put off your daily walk around the block till 8 p.m., it is no longer light out.
I understand the pang this gives some people. It’s like hearing “last call” at your favorite bar.
But I’m not sad. I have to say I had a successful summer: I actually made it to the swimming pool one of the days of my every-other-day plan.
I don’t mean I made it there every other day of the week…or even one day a week. I mean I got there one actual day….
“So let me get this straight, Mom — for you, ‘every-other-day plan’ means there’s one day each summer when you’ll do swimming and every other day nothing?”
“It sounds so bad the way you say it.”
At least I made it once!
Perhaps the choice of what marks the end of summer depends on a more basic division: between the folks who love summer and hate to see it go, and the folks who tolerate the sunburn, the mosquito bites, the sand in places it should never be (sandwiches, people… what were you thinking?!), for the sake of associating with the first group.
Count me solidly in group two.
I know lots of people who live for summer every year, who revel in the freedom of bathing suits and flip-flops, and not having to care what their hair looks like because it’s always wet.
I admire these free spirits and have often watched over their belongings at the beach while they ran into the ocean, but I was never able to become one.
My two brothers were definitely in the first group. I remember one family vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where they spent the entire week running around our beachfront motel with fly swatters. They had hatched a competition between them over who could swat the most flies. My parents were delighted by the whole idea — the boys’ inexhaustible energy for fly swatting was finally overmatched by an even more inexhaustible supply of flies. It was a solid win/win, for everyone but the flies.
I, on other hand, wrestled with an inexhaustible supply of worries. Had I really put suntan lotion in every nook and cranny? Or would I find out when it was too late the painful spots I had overlooked? Had the ocean washed it all off and should I put on some more, or would that just use it up before the day was out? And just when I’d gotten everything sorted out, and finally weighted down all four corners of the beach blanket, why must someone always come and take away the pair of shoes I was using for one of the anchors?
Perhaps I’m just a born Autumn person.
I don’t go by the Memorial-to-Labor Day reckoning. Nor do I go by the calendar date,
which this year supposedly hits on Monday, Sept. 23, — at 3:50 a.m. Where do they get that 3:50 a.m? And if “equinox” is supposed to mean “equal night and day,” which is my own expert translation of the term, how do they have enough of either one to judge by at that hour?
If you’re a die-hard, you can go by the final nail in Summer’s coffin: the end of Daylight Savings time on the Sunday after Halloween.
You could be forgiven for having a hard time deciding which benchmark to use. Then one day you open the front door and you realize — it’s actually cooler outside the house than in and you quickly turn off the air conditioning. That is the real and true end of summer.