From the Braver Institute
I used to own a Beach Boys album called “Endless Summer.” It was a greatest hits compilation of all of summer-centric songs of the Beach Boys, as if they wrote any songs that weren’t. The album title sums up the world I have always longed for.
When I was a little kid, summer seemed like a whole separate year instead of a season. At that young age there is no real concept of time. It was my perception that we went to school for a year and then we had a year off for summer. The calendar meant nothing until some well-meaning adult explained the way it all worked. This whole calendar thing put it all into perspective, and that perspective illustrated perfectly just how unfair the world was.
I discovered that not only was summer not its own year, it wasn’t even close to being one. You see, I hated every waking moment I was in school. Now I discovered that I was in school for most of the year and that a relatively small portion of that same year was set aside for summer.
It was around this time of my discovery of the unfairness of life that I learned of a wonderful instrument for implementing change in the world around us— the petition.
Someone had knocked on our door during supper one evening trying to collect signatures for a petition, the purpose of which I no longer recall, if I ever knew at all. My parents explained to me what the purpose of a petition was, and at that moment I knew I had the tool to level the playing field in terms of just how long summer should be.
On a piece of notebook paper I quickly wrote up a proposal that stated that the school year should be six months long and summer (in all fairness) should also be six months long. Who in their right mind could disagree with even- Steven logic? I drew a number of lines on the paper where people could sign their name, and then stapled my petition to the light pole in front of our house.
Evidently, word of my petition did not catch like the wildfire I had anticipated. My signature was the only one that ever found its way to the paper.
Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that summer lasted from sometime around Memorial Day until sometime around Labor Day, and the rest of the year was school.
Years later I reached the end of the school/summer cycle and fooled myself for a brief time that I was now in the world of endless summer. The harsh reality of adulthood quickly set in and I realized that the opposite of endless summer was now the world that awaited me. Since being a freeloader didn’t pay well enough to accommodate the lifestyle of relative comfort I desired, I ultimately had to get a job, and summer as I once knew it vanished into thin air forever.
In time I became used to the idea of working all through the summer, and once again I enjoyed the time as I did in my youth. I even managed to stop looking at Memorial Day and Labor Day as the bookends of summer. Of course summer really is dictated by the Earth’s position relative to the sun, and falls roughly between the 20th of June and the 22nd of September, but for my purposes summer was determined by the weather. Sometimes summer started at the end of March and ended sometime in October, and it was a little more like the summer of my petition.
Occasionally summer would simply pass us by, maybe just stopping in for a day or two like a traveling friend who wanted a place to stay before continuing on their journey. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula there are years where summer is just a concept, more or less, and spring and fall enjoy extended stays in summer’s absence.
When my daughters reached school age, my world of the weather-driven summer returned to the summer controlled by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Even though I know that the weather still has the potential of being beautiful well before and after these holidays, school still manages to control my freedom. Even though I am no longer a student, I am now responsible for someone to show up every day for class, and that kind of shoots a bunch of holes in a plan that involves quitting my job and exploring the west on a motorcycle come September.
There will again be a day when the weather regains control of summer from the calendar, but not being one to wish it all away, I will continue to do my best to make the most of whatever form of summer exists in my world at the moment.
Soon enough I will find myself in a world where I will be free to chase the endless summer.
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