This past Tuesday, Major League Baseball held its 84th annual All-Star Game. In addition to marking the unofficial midpoint of the baseball season, for me, it has always marked the unofficial midpoint of summer. Many moons ago, when I was but a wee lad in school, once the calendar reached the other side of the All-Star Game, a gnawing sense of dread set in for me, as school was coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I would begin counting the days I had left, trying to convince myself I still had plenty of carefree days remaining to wake up at noon and frolic about responsibility-free. I knew I was kidding myself. Adding to my sense of impending doom were the back- to-school ads that would increasingly dominate every commercial break until each half hour of TV became 20 minutes of escapism cruelly tainted by ten minutes of torturous reminders that my days of escaping were swiftly coming to an end. Trips to stores were similarly ruined by gaudy back- to-school displays I was convinced existed solely to torment kids. “Come on, Target,” I thought. “You used to be cool. Just last week you had a soul-soothing summer display. Now you’re hawking highlighters and composition board books? Judas!” Everywhere I turned, I wasn’t allowed to forget that summer was ending, and sure enough, it always soon did (as Charles Barkley so sagely likes to point out, Father Time is undefeated).
So, time has marched on, and baseball still has its All-Star game, and companies are still browbeating kids everywhere with their back-to-school campaigns, but one crucial thing is now different: I’m not a kid anymore (contrary to the belief of some library patrons). I haven’t had a true summer in about four years, and I never will again. I’ve made my peace with that. I watched the All-Star Game this week, just as I always do, and there was no lurch in my stomach the next day. I’ve seen the back-to-school ads on TV, and I’ve walked past the displays in the stores, and I’ve felt no need to sing the blues.
However, all those things still bum me out ever so slightly. Maybe the old wounds are still a little too fresh. Maybe I just empathize with the young’uns. I guess what I’ve been building up to is a gentle request to those of you with school-aged children: Show a little sympathy as your kids mourn the inevitable death of their precious summer. Heap just a little bit of extra dessert on their plates. Let them stay up just a little later. And for the love of Pete, steer them clear of the back-to-school sections in stores until it’s absolutely necessary. Perhaps the most helpful thing would be to point out that they would be wise to appreciate every ounce of summer they get while they’re still getting it, ‘cuz pretty soon, when they’re old people like us, they won’t have any summer at all. Man, how I envy them.