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Saturday, October 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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That’s Life: Summer calls for freedom, exploration, fun

Summer is in a hurry this year. Never mind its official arrival later this month; the season couldn’t even wait for the graduation caps to fall from the sky and settle into a corner of the closet or a box under the bed.

It’s a hot spring fever that summons through the windows, either overpowering antiquated air conditioning systems or causing them to overcompensate and cool so completely you need a sweater.

“Come outside and play,” summer says. But it isn’t satisfied. It leaves you, like a cooked egg, steaming in the heat that bounces between sun and asphalt and beckons.

“Come to the beach, the decks, the patios and the cool shade of the trees,” it says.

Summer isn’t for the city.

Maybe that’s why the schools empty and office work often ends as close to quitting time as possible. Summer is persuasive. Even in its hurry to arrive, it begs you to breathe, to slow down, to kick off your shoes and sink your toes in the sand and the lapping waves.

Summer is for schoolchildren, but it’s also for adults who remember its last name is Vacation, and if you make the time you can squeeze a little of it into the everyday.

When I was a kid, on the last day of school I’d walk home feeling free, the weeks ahead mostly unscheduled save a camping trip or two. No assignments hanging over my head. Just skies I could play under whether they were covered in clouds or shining with sunbeams to brown my skin as I splashed in my best friend’s pool, the neighborhood pool or the one of the many lakes a short drive away.

When I arrived home, clutching that last report card in an envelope, my mom would greet me with ice cream money.

Within an hour of the last school bell, a tinny tune playing Farmer in the Dell or another ancient nursery song would always herald the arrival of the ice cream man. With enough warning, you could grab your change and wait in the road.

After finishing the fast-melting treat and licking the inevitable drip down the side of my hand, I was ready for our next tradition that shut the door on school while leaving it open just a crack.

We headed to the library where I signed up for the summer reading program and checked out no less than six books I expected to read within the week.

My arms weren’t laden with assignments and obligations. They held the keys to adventure, and I couldn’t wait to turn the pages and find it.

But first, I kicked off my shoes and gingerly crossed the gravel driveway to go next door. After school, play was a given on the last day.

I’d wince as I walked, the sharp rocks poking my tender soles so often covered by shoes. But summer is a time to let your feet breathe, stretch and grow. By the end of the season, my daily trips across that driveway would have toughen my soles enough that I could run barefoot with abandon.

Like my feet, summer was unfettered.

We might swim, climb trees or make up elaborate stories about imaginary lives. Or, we’d go for a bike ride, capitalizing on another summer-starting ritual: A request for bigger bike boundaries.

How far would my parents let me ride away?

This was my first and most freeing experience in negotiation, and with it I felt my world expand with opportunity. With new streets to navigate and new neighborhoods to explore, I’d pedal as fast as I could to cross those old, childhood limits and into the yet unknown.

I was heeding summer’s call. Still, even in my hurry to grow up, summer days were long and leisurely. We’d play into the setting sun, school-year bedtimes let out like the hem in a dress I’d outgrown.

The lasting light and later bedtimes made for longer days with less to do, so it seemed as though everything slowed down and stretched out. The season was a satisfying sigh after the school year.

Summer is like that, even when it arrives in a hurry.

Jill Barville writes twice a month about families, life and everything else. She can be reached at jbarville@msn.com.

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