Forget the almanac. And the calendar. Forget whatever the weatherman or the newspaper or the next-door neighbor with the hair growing out of a mole shaped like the state of Delaware on his nose told you. The true worm-hole opening to summer is not the upcoming solstice on June 21; it’s the last Monday of May, Memorial Day.
Memorial Day: when the world alters unalterably for every kid and teacher 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 10 to 12 weeks of school-free adventures looming ahead like a sun-kissed valley below a fog-enshrouded summit. Even if we don’t get to stop in the valley, we can recall when we did and grin wistfully.
Officially, the last Monday of May was carved out as a peaceful moment to lay wreaths at the tombs of all the young men and women who sacrificed their lives for the security of this nation, not to mention the multitude of valiant drivers tragically lost in Midwestern automobile races.
Unofficially, it’s a 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 breath. Summer? Already? How the heck 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 just 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 those many brave, slow mammals on a freshly scrubbed Weber who gave their lives in order for us to raise our cholesterol levels to heights where Sherpas fear to tread.
This is a time for fireworks and pie 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 corn and hiking and lemonade and thunderstorms and baseball broadcasts on AM radio and spending a week in the middle of August jammed in the back of a station wagon with no air conditioning, an incontinent 18-year-old basset hound and a leaking Coleman cooler.
Some people even find camping relaxing. Good for them. For 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 reception.
My vacation plans comprise of room service, Perry Mason marathons on hulu.com and the crazed midnight looting of many hotel mini bars. Forgive me folks, but my idea of a good time does not involve sleeping on rocks, going potty behind trees and dodging mosquitoes the size of La-Z-Boy recliners. Think more along the lines of waitresses shepherding sweaty bottles of cold beer poolside.
Our season of frenzied leisure will too shortly end on Labor Day, so hurry out there and have one terrific summer full of languid days and untroubled nights. May you frolic and cavort and gambol and caper in a madcap series of wacky, zany antics that are fondly remembered always. All while keeping the sand off of your hot dog.