Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Summertime (6.02.07)

Do what we can, summer will have its flies. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lazy, hazy days of summer? Who is kidding who? Looking at my calendar for June, there will be no laziness and that is certain.

Although summer doesn't officially astronomically start until June 21st, convention says that summer begins Memorial Day weekend. And even though it doesn' t end on the calendar until late September, Labor Day weekend is when we say our farewells and start unpacking sweaters and pencils.

In my location, two days of the year will actually be the longest - June 21st and 22nd will both see the sunrise at 5:54am and set at 9:02pm. I wonder how much I can pack in to those days.

I remember when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey. My father was a school teacher - and also director of the summer school. Back then, summer school wasn't remedial, consisting of classes for the students who couldn't pass during the regular school term. No, summer school was fun; it was enrichment activities. Because he was the director, his children were required to go. Thankfully, it was just in the mornings - still, you did so very much want to sleep late. Any way, the first six weeks of every summer morning of my elementary and middle school years was filled with gymnastics, cooking and sewing classes, art, poetry readings, even typing.

The afternoons - now that was the when the real fun began. Until it was closed, we spent most afternoons at a lake along the Rockaway River called Oak Ridge Lake. If my father didn't bring us, my oldest sister, CeCe did. We swam for hours, caught tadpoles, and made friends. When that lake closed down due to the building of a development which polluted its waters, we began going to Morski Oko, which was walking distance from my house.

Every summer we purchased a membership pass - as did my best friend's family. Many mornings we would be there and we'd be the only ones swimming. There were two diving boards, a high dive and a low dive. My brother, my friend, Michele, and I would pretend to be Olympic divers. My father sat in a lawn chair, laden with books (he was forever going after new degrees - Masters in mathematics & English, Bachelor's in Accounting & Philosopy, Associates in accounting, and probaby something I'm forgetting). "Watch this, Dad!" and he'd pretend to look up for a minute.

We rarely went to the lake on weekends. Weekends were when all the Polish immigrants from around Jersey City drove the 40 - 50 miles out to the lake. Vodka was flowing freely as early as 10am. Many of the immigrants did not speak English, so the signs in the snack bar were in both languages. I can't imagine many other beachside snack bars that sold pierogis, but they did. In the early 80s, political activists came with tables of information promoting Solidarity in the home country. Not too many other kids knew who Lech Walesa was, but we did. That was a name we heard often, playing in the sand and swimming at Morski Oko. We even found that it was named after Morskie Oko, a beautiful lake in Poland.

Morski Oko was about a mile or two from my house. If one could cut across the golf course without getting caught, I think it was closer. As it was, it was a walk down Schoolhouse Rd, a turn, a walk past a horse farm, past two beautiful ponds, around a bend where wild roses grew thick and their heady smell filled the air, through a wooded area, over a bridge and then... the entrance. The road was a rough, bumpy dirt and rock road. Very narrow, it would up a steep hill, higher and higher. You always hoped that no cars were coming down when you were driving up - and walking, you worried more because it kicked all the dust into your eyes. The sides of the road were no use for escape because one side was like a wall of dirt, rock, trees and shrubs, and the other side was a precipitous drop. When you rounded the last steep bend, the lake lay before you, almost a perfect circle. The road continued all the way around the lake, but the beach was to the left. Picnic tables were scattered throughout the woods which surrounded the lake, picnic shelters were located on the far side - near a set of bathrooms.

If you went on the weekend, you also got to see a lot of them swimming in their underwear. Back at that time Maidenform had an advertising campaign running in Glamour, Mademoisselle, and Cosmopolitan that showed a woman in their undergarments, posing in an unexpected place, with the caption, "The Maidenform Woman, you never know where she'll turn up." Well, we used to joke "The Playtex 18 hour woman, we know EXACTLY where she'll show up!" We're not talking women in Victoria's Secret type bras and panties - this was heavy duty, over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder territory and thick girdles. As for the men, well, we saw more Speedos than I care to recall! Speedos are flattering on very, very few people. :(

When I was a teenager, my friend, Michele, became a lifeguard at the beach. This meant that Dad didn't bother coming anymore and we could walk to the lake. Polish boys from the cities would come and try to flirt with all of us local girls and try to get us to join the Miss Morski Oko pageant, and walk the dock in our bikinis. It didn't happen, but...we did meet some very cute guys.

So it's summertime and I'm all grown up --- and my calendar is packed! When is there going to be time for lazing around? Every single weekend in June there are birthday parties, graduation parties, and bridal or baby showers. During the week, there are vacation Bible school meetings, skating camp, doctor and dentist appointments. Oh and always, bills to pay. Thanks to the Lord for our pool, because the way the price of gas has gone up, I don't foresee any long trips anywhere - nor do I see any do-able weekends any time soon.

Yesterday, while out buying a shower gift, we had to go through one of the most dreadful summertime rituals -- I had to take the girls out to get new swimsuits. No one likes shopping for swimsuits - no matter how buff you might be, there is always a problem. Fitting room mirrors are not kind - and there is that age when their bodies are awkward, gearing up for growth spurts and it's usually a source of tears and frustration. I can happily say that we all left with great swimsuits with little or no angst this time! Better yet, I can say that we all ended up with wonderful stuff from the clearance rack and saved a fortune. (I also got three cute shirts and a belt on clearance, hurray!)

This is good because my pool was open on Memorial Day and there have been kids in it every day since. The girls and I just returned from a bridal shower - they were swimming before we left and they're swimming again.

Robert Herrick wrote this poem in the 1600s to remind young women that their beauty wouldn't last forever - but it reminds me that some how, there has to be time to ENJOY life, to use the summer wisely - but not miss out on the opportunity to have some lazy, hazy, crazy days.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

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