Lazy summer days: never as easy as they looked
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The lazy days of summer. Where are they? I wonder. Back in another time and place, I suppose, way back before the responsibilities of parenting and jobs took center stage in our lives.

The lazy days of summer I last remember were spent at the pool, swimming, jumping, playing Marco Polo. We toasted under the hot sun, even shivered with blue lips when the summer breeze blew cool on a cloudy day.

Lazy days back then meant a picnic on the mountain, under the shade of a lush canopy of trees. We gobbled down grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and homemade potato salad, then toasted marshmallows for dessert. We’d scamper off to explore the woods, climb rocks and collect what natural trinkets the earth might provide.

Summer brought church camp, bunking in cabins with new friends, making crafts and ending the day with evening song and services outdoors.

The break from school meant no nightly homework and longer days to fill with play. We rode bikes, roamed the neighborhood with friends and played outdoor games like kick-the-can and army until nightfall. The calls of our names rang out from family porches, signaling the time to come home. We’d plead to stay out just a little longer, then dart in the falling darkness to catch fireflies.

Some years, summer in my family meant vacation at the beach, slathered in sunscreen, building sand castles, running into salty waves and eating seafood like we couldn’t get back home. The night ended with a round of putt-putt golf and the collapse into bed. Morning came early, at sunrise, with an immediate push for a return to the sand and surf.

These are the child’s memories of those lazy days of summer. By now, we’ve tasted the flip-side and in times far different from those of our youth.

Just because school’s out doesn’t mean students shift into neutral. They want to go and do. And parents have to get them where they want to be — to the pool, to ball practice and ball games, to the movies, to fairs, festivals and all the events designed to keep our summers full with special activities.

Those relaxed grown-up bodies stretched out pool-side bake under the hot sun with one eye open, trained on children in the water. While the kids enjoy splishing and splashing, parents are on alert.

The care-free picnics, we understand now, don’t make themselves. Someone has to buy and make the food, pack the picnic and supplies, fire and tend the grill and clean up afterward. Even a generous helping of fun and relaxation come with a side of work.

While most teachers enjoy a real break from their daily grind, those of other professions keep on keeping on in a season that doesn’t seem slow or lazy at all, just hotter.

Summer around here and at other places frequently means special projects on top of regular routines. It means the search for the best time to take a vacation, the jockeying and juggling to squeeze out an ounce of time off when it won’t be so imposing on colleagues. It means the rush and crush of working ahead to help fill the gaps left by vacation absences.

My frazzled friend is in the midst of this now as he prepares for some travel time off with family. He offered a thought for a column when I had none. If he could gather a coherent thought, he strained even to say, it would be to SLOW DOWN.

It sounded good, in theory. But when our worlds seem structured around the demands of others, slowing down somehow seems an impractical, near impossible challenge.

Those lazy days of summer are but a memory.

(Jenay Tate is Editor and Publisher of The Coalfield Progress newspaper in Norton, Va. Column reprinted with permission)
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