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When Your Summers End, What Remains?

Updated on February 12, 2015

Summer's End

A record in the tall grasses.
A record in the tall grasses. | Source

Reflections On Summers Past

What comes to mind when you think of summer?

The beach? Camping? Parties and sleeping late?

For me, it starts with baseball, although that was a long time ago, hitting balls, pitching and running with my brothers in the State fields we converted to a diamond every summer.

Warm summer nights, we used to get all the neighborhood kids together to play kick-the-can after dark in our back yard. I'd race up and send some empty soup can sailing into the dark while the others who'd been caught fled, sprung free by my heroic rescue.

Because you got to touch the girls, i also liked freeze tag and pom-pom-pull-away. With pom-pom-pull-away, you got to wrap your arms around them. All of it within bounds we all knew, of course, all part of learning the rules of being boys and girls as we grew and our string of American summers ended.

Before summers folded into September, some were taken up with work on my Uncle Leslie's farm. I got bigger and stronger from the work and my Aunt Bertha's hearty meals. Another was consumed with free love and protest, 1968, those few months when we imagined we could change everything.

But summers always end, and eventually, the string of free summers so ingrained in American childhood end too. There weren't many things I found harder to adjust as a grownup than the continuing of regular routines as the days grow long and the sun beams closer.

I admit, I still have fantasies. When I worked for a troubled company, I kept hoping, if I got laid off, it would be in July and August. I'd sleep in, walk out for breakfast and figure out how to survive two months on unemployment.

But that never happened.


Summer's A Tattoo

Not only has summer not really disappeared, here in New York City, its drama has been powered by global warming. The always hot humid months of a port city have now been chased by hurricanes.

But the summers, the real ones, that left their tattoo on me ended a few decades ago. Tattoos, they never come off.

In our backyard when everything was still perfect in the world, fireflies arrived with the season. One of my brothers tried catching them in a jar. Mainly, I just watched in fascination. If you got up close, you could see their bodies light up, translucent like a frosted light bulb. Who needed the pyramids when you had these wonders of the world blinking in the dark and the scent of lilacs filling the air?

Another thrill was heat lightning. The stars were still flung across the sky like spilled jewels, but the lightning flashed without clouds or thunder.

Anyone could see there were mysteries to be discovered everywhere.

Image credit for fireflies, Wikipedia, Creative Commons License

When I Think of Summer

Here are a few of the things that meant summer to me.

More Songs Than You Can Count

Sounds of Summer: Very Best of The Beach Boys
Sounds of Summer: Very Best of The Beach Boys

"Don't worry, baby, everything will turn out alright."

The Beach Boys build a kind of soundtrack that used to stay with me all summer.


Growing up with Baseball

The Boys of Summer (Harperperennial Modern Classics)
The Boys of Summer (Harperperennial Modern Classics)

The team I followed like crazy as a boy, trying to imitate the stars, is as American and summer as you can get.


The Girls of Summer

Soon, the mystery that flavored all the others was girls. Girls were a summer thing. All of us had free time to flirt and talk and make out when nobody was around.

It started, I remember, during the summer I worked on my uncle’s farm. Toward the end of August, I found myself daydreaming, not about returning to classes and my friends, but a certain brown-haired girl with sparkling eyes I wanted to look at again. Things were changing.

A couple years still had to pass before I had my first girlfriend. I met Sandi, of course, on a summer night. Dick Clark’s traveling rock and roll show came to town. We met in the bleachers. I got my first kiss, and by the time the night was over, we were making out in a park. And I was thrilled and confused about what was supposed to happen next.

What happened next, I found out when summer ended, was that our romance cooled in perfect coordination with autumn.

Later, I always had a summer girlfriend. The romance faded with summer as the learning curve relaxed long enough to let other things, like math and world history, get some brain space.

But those sweet summer loves are part of what made summers so hard to give up. They were part of my American Dream.

Unexpected Lessons of Summer Worth Keeping

My dad came from a farm family in northern Pennsylvania. Most of his brothers started their own farms while his youngest brother, my Uncle Leslie, inherited their father’s farm and provided a place for my grandmother to live out the rest of her life.

In summer especially, farming is harder work than you can imagine. The days start early with cows in the barn that need to be milked, and they run all day. Days on end were spent cutting, mowing and bailing hay and putting it into storage to feed the cows in the winter months, along with other chores, like running fences and, memorably, cleaning out the barn, a chore for which I will spare you the details.

What stayed with me from that summer was the relentless of the work. You didn’t take a day off, not even weekends, because the cows didn’t. Sick, well, tired, depressed, angry, happy, it didn’t matter, you went to work.

I learned something from those hot days in the field, while I got tanned and stronger than I’d ever been. I learned to work. Thirty-five years later, when the most challenging job in my life meant getting after my responsibilities without excuses, I’d think about Uncle Leslie, at five in the morning, trudging off to milk the cows, no matter what, with no dreams of naps or time off for consolation. Whatever I had to do to be successful, it was certainly easier.

I found my theme song on Tom Wait's Mule Variations.

Got to get behind the mule

In the morning and plow

The songs a little grim in content, but ultimately, the message is about getting to work, no matter what your circumstances.

And alternately, my friend Eliot and I shared Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.

I get knocked down

But I get up again

You’re never gonna keep me down

Tubthumping was released in summer, August, 1997.


When the Music Exploded Too

60s / Various
60s / Various

History worth remembering...


Summer of Love and the End of It

Before the string of true American summers could end, it exploded in protest. 1968 was my last summer not weighted down by a conventional job. I worked at a Peace Center in my hometown, Binghamton, but that was more passion than work.

While the political conventions that summer to decide who’d replace Lyndon Johnson as president held the public’s attention, I learned about politics for the first time, my happy optimism wiped out by the season of assassinations that led into summer.

But a larger part of dropping out was dropping in, figuring more out about who we all were and what our relationships should be like.

Once you threw out the conventions of dating and going steady and sailing into marriage, you needed something to replace it. We really were feeling around for what those relationships should be like.

For one thing, the freedom to take our minds off the traditional march into adulthood meant our friendships must be redefined too. I’d always had friends, male and female, but for the first time I believed I had an extended family of brothers and sisters that weren’t the ones I’d grown up with.

To flash a peace sign at a stranger and have it returned signaled a new community with new values. Men could be more aware emotionally, and respect for women suddenly meant more than holding doors.

The women, kept under wraps for so long, changed more than we did. Bra burnings were explosive expressions of freedom. The Women’s Movement accelerated, making them powers to be dealt with — and relied on — in ways we’d never imagined.

We all swung together into Woodstock Nation. It didn’t last long. All summers end.

That summer when everything almost changed was an exhilarating time, impossible to repeat because the context will never be frames that way again.


That’s summer for me.

The warm months that get so many of the people we know evacuating city, leaving the place to tourists, in July and August can never be that summer.

Maybe we need another name for the summers of youth, the times of dreams and passion and idealism. Until we do, I’ll hold onto summer as something that used to happen don’t anymore.

For now, I’ll take June, July and August, T-shirt weather, and memories of summers that ended.

David Stone

Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page.

© 2014 David Stone

What do you think?

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    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      Exactly how it felt and what I intend in writing it. Thanks.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 

      4 years ago from California

      Beautiful article, left me feeling a bit melancholy. It invoked so many memories. When I think of summer, I can't help but think of that point when school is out and you get to stay outside in the evening. It's warm and mom doesn't have the energy to have 5 kids in the house. It felt like such freedom. It was when summer vacation felt as if it went forever. How soon that period of life ended. Too soon!

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      You're welcome, Nancy. We can all use a little drift back to summer and all the reflections.

      Thank you.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      In my youth I enjoyed summer and growing up and meeting my first love! It wasn't one that lasted long, but lives on in my memory. Nowadays, I hibernate in the summer because the heat is too much for me, but I sure enjoyed it when I was young. Thanks David, enjoyed this!

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @Lady Lorelei: I feel very flattered being compared to your husband, Lorelei. Should I be?

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @smine27: You're welcome, Shinichi. Your work often has that effect on me.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @esmonaco: Maybe a few still do, but it's all going the way of the hoop skirt. Too bad for them.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @Merrci: You're a sentimental fool, just like me, Merry.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @captainj88: Thank you.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @angelatvs: You're welcome. I can still feel the rush of sending that can flying off into the dark.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @PAINTDRIPS: We were probably the last generation to have those things. We were free to build relationships without all the management. We were lucky.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @Rhonda Lytle: And daydreaming, right?

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      @asereht1970: I loved that, too. We were free to chase the girls, just not too avidly.

    • asereht1970 profile image


      4 years ago

      Beautiful lens. Reminded me of the days when I also played freeze tag with the neighborhood kids.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      I miss those lazy summers of days past when flirting and swimming were the focus.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      4 years ago from Fresno CA

      This was great! I loved reading about the social issues from the late sixties and how you remember them. I was just 13 in 1968 and a lot of what was going on went over my head. Isn't it interesting how we remember things a little differently than they record in history books? And I loved Kick the Can too. That was the summer they discovered my vision was so bad. The guys loved it when I was "it" because I couldn't really see them till they ran all the way up to me and kicked the can from under me. Never played pom pom pull away. Sounds fun.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Kick the Can was such a great game! Thanks for sharing your summertime lens.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Great lens, lovely sentiments.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      You bring to mind so many memories! Even the unhappy ones are sweet when looked at from today. Those summers growing up offered so much that was new--each year something different. I can tell I'll spend the day reminiscing now! Thanks for a lovely lens.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      4 years ago from Lakewood New York

      What a wonderful read, thanks for bringing back all the memories! I don't think anybody palys freeze tag or pom-pom pull away anymore!! or even has to be home when the street lights come on.. Thanks

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      David this was such a joy to read and has brought back memories of the past for me. Thank you again for putting a smile on my face. :)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      Beautiful as always David. Reading your opening paragraph I had to smile as that sounded like something that my husband would say. With an overactive immune system I tend to hide in my home in the winter to avoid the cold and flu so come summer I feel like I am being set free from my jail. I so look forward to it and the return of the migratory birds. Summer will always be magical to me.


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