Endless summer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

You were 10 years old, and the last bell had just rang on the last day of school, and as you walked out that school door into the sun, your whole world changed.

It was the start of summer. It meant three whole months without books and bells and tests and tardy slips. Three whole months without dressin’ up and doin’ schoolwork and listening to long, long minutes of fractions and hypotenuses and predicates and prepositions.

Summer had arrived, and the thought of it ever stopping was unimaginable. For the end of summer was way, way off yonder in the distance, and there was too much just waiting to be done between here and there.

There was going barefoot and going fishin’. Throwing rocks at wasps’ nests and tying strings to June bug legs and catching fireflies in a jar. There was playing all the way ’til dark and getting up the next day and doing the same thing.

There was sleeping in and camping out. There was riding your bike to the store and getting a Powerhouse and a RC Cola, because that was the biggest drink and candy bar they sold.

There was going to the swimming pool and doing cannonballs and can openers and belly flops and seeing who could hold their breath the longest. There was back flips and front flips and just plain ol’ jumping in feet first.

There was walking in the woods and seeing a snake or a lizard or a turtle or a frog. The first ear of corn on the cob and the first bite of watermelon. Getting dirty and getting sunburned.

Summer was going to bed with your window open and hearing a thunderstorm roll in and seeing the whole sky and all of your room light up as if on fire. And there was something both magical and fearful about it all. It was being scared by the loud cracks of thunder, but not too much, because your parents were in the next room.

It was sleeping soundly at night because you had conquered the world during the day.

Summer was scratching a thousand red bugs between the ankles and the waist from June to August and wondering just how they got there. It was climbing trees and seeing all the world from so far up.

Summer was pretending. You were a cowboy or an Indian or pioneer or an inventor. You were invisible or could fly, or you were the strongest man on earth, and all the girls were in love with you.

Summer was tag and hide-and-seek and dodgeball and baseball. Summer was fireworks and drive-in movie theaters and swatting mosquitoes.

But somehow — as if some immutable force slowly brought it to pass — the summer came to a close. And we could do nothing about it. Like a giant steel door closing on a vault, that dreadful day we refused to acknowledge finally came. The last day of summer.

And through some Herculean effort, we crammed all of summer — all its dreams and hopes and activities and imaginations — into an undersized suitcase and set it in the corner.

And there it sat, for nine long months, until its zippers and belts could no longer contain it, and it burst forth, larger and more colorful than ever. For once again, summer had come.

Rex Alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is rexalphin@aol.com.