Monday, September 7, 2009

Reflections on Summer

Labor Day is here at last, and with it comes the “unofficial end of summer.” The calendar says fall begins at the Autumnal Equinox on September 22nd at 5:18 PM. I’m not clear how that works, actually – if the equinox is the day when day and night are of equal durations, shouldn’t the equinox occur at a midpoint somewhere – the midpoint of the day or the midpoint of daylight or at sunset or something like that? A time like 5:18 PM just seems random to me, but I suppose that’s why I’m not a meteorologist.

But, Labor Day seems like a good point at which to reflect on the summer. Weather-wise, the summer of 2009 was something of a bust. June and July were remarkably wet and cool, even for Central New York. A lot of people are writing it off as a total loss. Still, I think I’ll remember this as one of the best summers ever. It was certainly one of the busiest, even though I wasn’t driving off to work every day.

Summer, for me, began with the end of the last school year. Prior to that, I’d been home all day with my youngest son, which was a really wonderful time for us. My prior work schedule had meant I spent less time with him than I had with my other kids and I felt like my rapport with the little guy had suffered. Getting to spend March through June with him all day went a long way toward healing that wound and bringing us closer together, for which I’ll always be glad.

Once the kids were out of school, we started right in with swimming lessons. Remarkably, the kids made more progress in this one summer than they’d made in the last two years combined. My daughter kept up with her piano and trumpet practice, usually without significant grumbling or argument. My older son and I learned to play the guitar together. We tried to get outside - I puttered around in my garden and took the kids to the zoo and Beaver Lake Nature Center.

The highlights, though, were the events. For my wife and me, this was the trip to New York City in particular. For the family as a whole, our two summer vacations were outstanding. The first was a 2-day trip to Rochester, NY, where we spent time at the Museum of Play (which evidently is aimed at kids that are younger than mine) and Seabreeze (which my daughter still cites as the “happiest day” of her life). Later, my wife took a week off for a vacation that included miniature golf, the zoo, a picnic at Shove Park, and lunch at Olive Garden (not all on the same day, of course).

And, finally, the Great New York State Fair had arrived, and we were furiously baking and framing and mounting in preparation for the Art & Home Center competitions my wife and kids had entered. The final tally included ribbons for just about everything we entered, including a 2nd prize for my older son’s artwork and a 2nd prize for my wife’s Pink Lemonade Cupcakes. Pretty good for a first attempt!

And now it’s Labor Day and all three kids are readying to head off to school – the first time they’ve all gone together. My youngest has an enormous backpack that he likes to put on and strut proudly around the house. Except for the color it looks like he’s a Marine with a full combat load. The kids will march off to school and I’ll get to work writing and we’ll all be able to look back on an especially fun and exciting summer. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the kids after so many years of corporate grind, but this summer put a big dent in my Daddy Deficit. There’s nothing like being fully immersed in the reality of what it’s all about. What an outstanding summer, whatever anybody else may think.

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