Disregard the almanac. And the calendar. Forget whatever the meteorologist or the astrology charts or your next-door neighbor with the hair growing out of a mole shaped like the state of Delaware on his nose told you. The true wormhole opening to summer is not the upcoming solstice on Wednesday, June 20th; it is, has been, and forever shall be the last Monday of May — Memorial Day.
Memorial Day: when the world alters unalterably for every kid and teacher and parent and water-park operator across the land. By now, the cages have either sprung open or the locks are being picked, and the imprinted DNA of every true-blooded American tingles in anticipation of the ten-to-twelve weeks of school-free adventures looming ahead like a sun-kissed valley below a fog-enshrouded summit. Even those of us who don’t get to stop and romp in the valley are able to recall extended days when we did, and can’t help but grin wistfully.
Officially, the last Monday of May was carved out as a peaceful respite to lay a wreath at the tomb of all the young men and women who sacrificed their lives for the security of our nation, not to mention the multitude of valiant drivers tragically lost in Midwestern automobile races.
Unofficially, it’s the time for the whole of America to stop in the headlong momentum of the year to lean on a freshly painted picnic table and catch our collective breath.
Summer? Seriously? Already? How the hell did that happen? Wasn’t it just the other day we were taking down our Xmas cards? Of course some of us still have our Xmas cards up. And exactly what is wrong with that?
Most importantly, Memorial Day marks the beginning of the flesh-charring season. Our own, at the beach, eating al fresco for the first time all year and on the freshly scrubbed grill — those many brave, sluggish mammals who gave their lives in order for us to raise our cholesterol levels to heights where Sherpas fear to tread. Thank the pig.
Now is the time for fireworks and lemonade and tires swinging on ropes over rivers and roasted marshmallows and ice cream on sticks that melt down your hand all the way to the elbow. And golf and hiking and roasted corn and suntan lotion and thunderstorms and baseball broadcasts on an AM radio and spending a week in the middle of August jammed in the back of a station wagon with no air conditioning, an 18-year-old incontinent basset hound and a leaking Coleman cooler.
Some people even claim to find camping relaxing. Good for you. To me, the outdoors is where the car is. Roughing it means cable TV without Turner Classic Movies. You say Wilderness: I think spotty cell phone coverage.
Our season of frenzied leisure is too shortly destined to end on Labor Day, so hurry on out there and have one terrific summer full of long, languid days and soft, warm, breezy nights. Go frolic and cavort and gambol and caper in a madcap series of wacky, zany antics that you remember fondly. Always. And try to keep the sand off your hot dog. If you know what I mean.
Gentlemen: Start your Webers.