Summer is here. I don’t care if the calendar says June 20 was the first official day. For me, summer doesn’t start until July.
When I was in grade school, summer was a magical season of ice cream, sprinklers, dirt, and friends. My backyard in Calgary had been landscaped with all manner of trees, rocks, and plants, among which I spent most of the day playing.
There was one particular rock that rose up in two small humps and had a bowl-shaped depression in the middle. My friend from across the street, Danielle, and I would sit on each of the humps and pretend we were witches stirring potion in a cauldron. The “potion” was made of whatever we could find – usually dirt, leaves, berries, and water. One time we got lucky and found sand, which had the perfect thick, goopy texture when moistened. We used a stick to stir.
There were also three ant nests around my yard. I liked poking them from a safe distance and watching them swarm out in such a frenzy that they ran over each other. I liked to leave food for them as well, usually chunks of cheese that required the teamwork of several to move. Sometimes, I also liked to pick them up with leaves and send them “rafting” in water.
In our side yard were flat-topped sheds with ladders. One was located right next to the kitchen window, providing the perfect opportunity to mooch ice cream from whomever was inside. Even better was the familiar music of the ice cream truck as it drove down the street. There was nothing better at getting me to stop what I was doing and run outside. It didn’t matter it was the same ice cream they sold at the grocery store, it always tasted better to me.
As I grew up, my summers changed from playing to working. Even then, there was still something about summer that was different from the rest of the year. It wasn’t just the warm weather, it was what the weather did to people. Warm weather makes people more relaxed and sociable. It encourages people to leave their houses and to engage in more public activities.
This past March when I was at university in New Brunswick, there was an unexpected heat wave that lasted for three days. Temperatures hovered around 28 degrees. Everyone that had previously been hibernating moved outside to the central courtyard on campus. People were playing guitars, the residences were barbecuing burgers, and professors held classes on the grass while their students sat in a circle around them. The cafeteria sold out of popsicles before dinner the first day. Nobody got any work done, even those who, with all good intentions, brought their textbooks outside with them.
I had never seen campus like that in my four years there. What was really remarkable, though, wasn’t the weather. It was the effect it had on people, and on the campus atmosphere. Everyone was friendly with everyone else. For those three fantastic days, people seemed to feel a pressing need to get outside and talk to others. In my opinion, this is what makes summer so special. It isn’t the weather, it isn’t the food, and it isn’t the vacation. It’s the time you spend with people.