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Summer break can do wonders

Mon., July 16, 2007

Summer is for children. They get months out of school and, if they’re not too tightly scheduled for the convenience of their parents, a break from the dull routine. They get to stay up late, sleep in and play hard in the hours between.

For adults, the two-week vacation and weekends at the lake break up the monotony, but not much else changes. The days may be hot and sunny, the pace may be a bit slower, but there’s still work to be done. We get up, get started and keep going until it’s all finished. Even when we’re away, we’re still tethered by cell phones and computers.

It’s easy to forget what’s going on outside the office door.

The other afternoon I took my youngest daughter to see the new “Harry Potter” movie at the Imax Theater. It was a big screen event in every sense of the word.

I enjoyed the movie well enough, but I enjoyed something else even more. When I reached over for my bag of popcorn, I got a glimpse of my daughter’s face illuminated by the screen. She was engrossed in the movie and I watched the expressions play across her face – it was as open and readable as a book – as she watched Harry, Ron and Hermione fight the good fight against evil. Watching a movie is fun. Watching someone you love is even better.

Walking back to our car after the movie, we took a detour and spent a few minutes standing on one of the pedestrian bridges that crisscross the river. We rested our arms on the rail and looked down at the riverbed, at rough and secret places that spend most of the year covered by dark and fast moving water, places that only see the light when the weather is hot and the water is low. At the other end of the bridge I watched a little boy, his face puckered with concentration, spitting deliberately at some point beneath him. Apparently, he must have missed his mark because he kept trying. For such a hot and dry day, that little boy managed to work up a lot of spit. And he was determined. He didn’t stop until his father declared enough was enough and made him move on.

Next, we stopped by the beautiful old Looff Carrousel. My daughter and I always have a hard time passing the Carrousel without a spin. I paid for a couple of rides and while she sat on her favorite horse and reached for the brass ring, I sat on a bench and watched toddlers playing in the fountain at the entrance to the park. Sturdy little bodies, splashing and squealing as they ran on fat little feet through the mist and spray.

A pretty teenage girl in a summery dress, at the park with her date, took off her high heels and joined them. She kicked at the water and took great care not to get her hair wet. Her date hung back, shaking his head at her foolishness, but I got the feeling that part of him wanted to be in there with her. I wanted to be in there, too.

Just watching it all, I felt the tension in me melt away.

When I’d gotten up that morning, it was just another hot, mid-July day. A workday with deadlines and duties that couldn’t be ignored.

It’s easy, when you are no longer a child, to forget how wonderful summer can be. Life, we like to tell ourselves, is no picnic.

But occasionally, no matter how old you are, it’s a day at the park.

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