Article first published as The Enduring Myth of An Endless Summer on Blogcritics.
When people hear "Endless Summer" (and depending on their age), they may think of the great surfing film The Endless Summer (1966) or the iconic Beach Boys album (1974) that evoke misty memories of a different time and place. The film is about two guys roaming the world looking for a great wave; the album is a compilation of the classic tunes that still make me think of sand, surf, girls, and cars. Either will get me in the mood for a swim even in the frosty depths of a snowy January, and I have fond memories connected to both the film and the album all these years later.
There is something so alluring about summer, bringing us back to our youth with a spring in the step and joy in the soul. Summer smells differently even now, the aroma from various barbecue grills drifting in the air on a warm evening. There is the sweet singe of impending rain, the quick burst of a sun shower, and then the enveloping warmth of the afterglow with the moisture glistening on surfaces. People seem less burdened by the worries of the world, the pressure of work and school, and there is a notion that this is never going to end.
Days meander in the heat and light, giving kids of all ages more time to run and play. There is less clock watching and more time to linger in the park or on the beach. A sunset becomes not just the end of the day but an event worth waiting for and enjoying until the orange burst sinks into the sea. Then torches are lit, grills glow deep into the night, and marshmallows become brown on sticks held by kids and adults who remember that there is no rush to things.
How can we not like summer, as the late great Nat King Cole evoked in his song "Those Hazy Lazy Crazy Days of Summer" and not want it to ever end? We can travel about the country or the world, catch up with friends and loved ones in distant places, and take the kids to see all the things we want to share with them. Summer means packing up the car or mini van and taking that journey, remembering when we used to sit in the back seat and count license plates as our parents drove. It is a time to pass the baton and make the memories that our kids will one day share with their own children as we now share with them.
Now when I think of summer I think of freedom to be with my children the way I wish I could be with them all year long. It is wonderful being able to watch my little son wake up and see the joy in his eyes when he sees my face. "You have no work, Daddy?" he asks, and what a true pleasure it is to say that I have the whole day to spend with him. It is also a delight to watch my daughter go from swimming, tennis, and dancing classes and be able to see her in action. And, as we prepare for our yearly journey out of New York, there is the relief of knowing that the road and destination lie ahead of us as we leave everything behind.
Ask my kids about summer, and the first thing they think about is the animated TV series Phineas and Ferb. This is a great show for kids but parents can really enjoy it as well. Phineas and Ferb are two boys who want to make the most of every day of their summer vacation (all 104 days of it). There is a subplot about their platypus Perry (who happens to be a secret agent), but that is not as crazy as it sounds once you get acquainted with the show. Nevertheless, it is one TV series that truly embraces the overwhelming joy that kids experience in the summer, and it is a vicarious pleasure for me to watch it with my children and think that summer is really endless.
Unfortunately, as we adults all know to well, summer has to end. Still, as it is only mid-July and there is a long time to go until that first day of school in September, the illusion can still be something we can enjoy with gusto. Take the time to smell the burn of impending rain in the air, to linger on the beach until it is dark and wish on some stars, throw a Frisbee to your heart's content, share ice cream cones with your kids and let them melt all over your arms, and take a journey where you can put enough distance between there and here that makes you feel like you are indeed on vacation.
The myth of the endless summer endures because we are all still children at heart, and children love summer because they know what we sometimes forget: we need to play and laugh and not worry about what time it is. I love summer and I believe in its endless possibilities now as much as I did as when I was a kid. I hope that I will always feel this way and wish that for my children and their children and you and your children too.
Photo Credits: Endless Summer - imdb.com/Phineas and Ferb - disneypictures.net