Summers are nothing short of magical. Days are longer and warmer, and – at least for a kid without a job – every one is a Saturday. The sky has more stars in it. The bushes down the street are ripe with blackberries. Clothes are lighter, and skin is tanner.
The advantages of summer over the other three seasons seem ridiculously unfair. While fall, winter and spring consist of rain, school and people complaining about the rain and school, summers are full of tubing behind boats, driving across the state for baseball, catching marshmallows ablaze over a camp fire, escaping the heat for an action movie and dipping a kayak paddle in the nighttime water to light up the phosphorescence.
As the summers have slipped past, they have collected obligations and responsibilities. Summer jobs gradually turned most of my Saturdays into normal weekdays over the last several years, days I had to keep track of. Precious lazing time was converted into weeding, painting, cleaning and mowing.
But with great responsibilities came great power: a paycheck. That freedom, and a driver’s license, meant I didn’t have to wait until September to see friends from school. Workdays melted into evenings sitting beside a bonfire, learning new wakeboarding tricks on the water or lying in front of a television watching reruns of “Baggage.”
Someday, I know, there will be no two-month break when the weather gets nicer, and the only sign of a year’s passing will be an annual performance review. Working in yards less than 20 hours a week, I am still far away from that point, but the transformation has begun. Those magical two months, already so quick to pass, are becoming even more precious.
We are warned constantly of this fleeting nature of the season by songs on the radio. Whether it’s the “summer of ’69” or ’13, these songs tell us that childhood summers will be “the best days of my life,” that “summer lovin’ happens so fast,” but “life goes on long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.”
They sing of driving dirt roads with windows rolled down, of watching sunsets while sipping drinks with little umbrellas, of starry nights in wheat fields with a girl they never saw again but still remember. They sing of that poignant perfection that exists so completely and so briefly before it falls into autumn.
It exists between the moment of waking up outside in a hammock to the moment of falling asleep still smelling of the bonfire. Summer slips away faster than the memory of last night’s dream, faster than water cupped between hands. Each day is like a fruit ripe with nectar, willing us to squeeze out every last drop.
But the night is revealing. The stars stare down. Sparks crackle from the fire as they offer themselves up to the immense sky and disappear. The frogs and crickets thrum along with the immutable quiet, along with the pace and rhythm of the lazy night air. Each long day seems sentimental and familiar by its end, and going to bed is like saying goodbye to an old friend.
Halfway through this last summer, before I leave for my freshman year of college, it is hard not to think of this as the pinnacle of all those summers, the last vestige of childhood. Each day is even more precious and fleeting than the last, and therefore time seems to accelerate to keep up.
But I’m not convinced that these are the best days of my life, that in another 10 months summer will somehow seem less magical. Instead, I’m excited knowing that life goes on, because as long as summer returns every year as usual, the thrill will go on, too.Aidan O’Neill, a recent Gig Harbor High School graduate, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email him at email@example.com.