By Corinne Wnek
It’s that time of the year again, right around the Fourth of July and I’m really, really just beginning to get my life back again. No students to see, no parents to placate, no phone calls marked ‘urgent’ and no crises du jour to contend with. Now, it’s just the glorious summer and me! I had forgotten how good life could be when there is no alarm clock to set. I can actually plan dinner at a reasonable time instead of at 5:30 in the morning when I’m also trying to figure out what to wear to work that day.
Now don’t misunderstand. I really love my job, my students and all the people I come into contact with at school. But for me, a professional educator, summer is the proverbial brass ring and the Holy Grail wrapped into one big prize. So, as a seasoned high school counselor, it’s pretty pathetic that I’ve only recently come to realize why I live for this time of the year.
Maybe it’s because we have such a short season of warm weather here in New Jersey and we get to fancy up our walkways and front porches with plants and flowers that seem to make our everyday life a little prettier and sweeter smelling. Maybe it’s because we don’t have to put on layers and layers of clothing when we take Barkley out for his walk. Or maybe it’s all about the grill! You know, when our hot dogs, steaks and burgers alert the neighbors three doors away that the cook has abandoned the kitchen.
As plausible as all of this is, they fall short of explaining why, every last of school in June, I begin to feel like a teenager who is passionately in love for the first time. Only the object of my affection is not the cute upper classman whose locker is across the hall from mine. So, one summer afternoon while sitting on my geranium strewed deck engrossed in my new favorite book, it hit me as though Thor himself appeared in the clouds with his thunderbolt aimed directly at me.
Suddenly, instead of reading, I found myself focusing on the commotion coming out of the birch tree next to where I was sitting. Looking up, I saw the awesome sight of not one, but two bird nests each with several eggs in them and a whole lot of pecking going on. Right up there within earshot of me, nature was taking care of business. I felt the way an expectant father must feel when he knows the birth of his child is imminent. How come I never noticed things like this before?
Later on as I’m getting into my car to run an errand, I catch up with a neighbor who stops me to comment that I must be glad school is finally over. Now, normally, I would respond as quickly as I could and politely try to get going. Time is always of the essence with me when I’m working. I’m up at 4:30 AM, out of the house by 6:00 AM and home again at 4:00PM. But not today. I pulled the car over and I realize that not since my last break from school have we had a conversation, unhurried and with genuine interest in the goings on with each other’s families. I learned who was struggling with a job loss, whose health was failing as well as all the good and happy things that were going on with grandkids. In turn, my neighbor got the lowdown on the Wnek family news. We shared laughter and talked about our hopes for our families and yes, we coyly traded neighborhood gossip. Why doesn’t this happen more often?
I used to focus on summer as being all about the vacation, sleeping a little later in the morning and yes, of course, the almighty grill. And that still resonates ‘good times’ with me. But what was truly fueling my love of the summer, was the re-connection to people and to nature and just about everything else that makes up my everyday life that I almost never see when I’m in work mode. The blinders I wear throughout the year are a poor excuse for my tunnel vision. My summer slowdown allows me to notice what has been there all the while. I can step out of my world that seems to narrow from September to June and to give thanks for the great neighbors I have who are always there when you need them. I get to marvel at how a tiny seed can produce a twelve-foot high sunflower. I notice the rhythms of nature and how my garden has been transformed by late July into the most colorful world of roses, daisies and petunias imaginable, not unlike what the munchkins have seen in Oz.
Come June next year, I fully expect to continue my love affair with summer. But when those school bells ring for me in September, I will try hard not to lose sight of what I learned on my time off. This year, I’m aiming for a very passionate fall, winter and spring, too.
Look for Corinne Wnek’s column, “The Writer’s Block,” every Friday online at NJTODAY.NET
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