Commentary by Ward Degler
Summer’s gone. Deader than a doornail. I know, because Sept. 4 was Labor Day.
Sure, technically we still have a couple weeks left before the autumnal equinox, the official end of summer. But the real in-your-face end of summer was always Labor Day. That was because the next day we went back to school.
All summer we had slept in, ridden our bikes, gone swimming, and done the thousand special things guys did in summer.
The last week of August was the most intense. We knew we had only seven days left to squeeze the final ounce of fun out of the season.
We had already driven to St. Louis to shop at Famous Barr and Stix Baer & Fuller for school clothes. That included new shoes that would wear painful blisters into our heels. I never understood why we couldn’t just wear our summer tennis shoes to school. After all, they were comfortable, fast and could continue to remind us of summer fun well into the school year (for a complete understanding of the power of tennis shoes, please read Ray Bradbury’s novel, “Dandelion Wine”).
Naturally, the memory always faded about the middle of October, and school became the norm by the time November rolled around. Somewhere around Thanksgiving, I realized I actually understood the Bill of Rights, was able to diagram a compound sentence, and was really into the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Then sometime after Christmas when the days became 90 hours long, and the snow melted and that special fragrance filled the air signaling the return of spring, we found ourselves in the midst of a major transformation. Suddenly, we were a year older, and we could smell the return of summer.
After school those days we worked on our bikes, oiled the chains and touched up the paint. Some of us made lists of things we would do come summer. And we waited.
Then came the last day of school. We turned in our books, cleaned out our desks – which included trying to identify what might have been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich back in March. Suddenly, the magic returned.
We were alive! We had survived another winter, another school year.
Summer was here. The now scuffed up and worn school shoes were relegated to the closet and we slipped our feet back into our summer tennis.
I’m older now, of course, and school clothes are but a memory. Still, I grit my teeth when Labor Day rolls around because I know in my heart that summer is over.