The Ghost of Summers Past
Whether you are a parent or a child, a singe or married, American or Qatari, you have expectations for the months of summer. Depending on your financial situation your choices for a summer holiday could range from a day trip to the beach to a month in Paris.
I remember summer being a time when my South Indian father wanted us to ‘get ahead’ in the reading for the next academic year. And also my mother taking us to the free morning movie at the local theater (who drew out mothers and young children in hopes of concession sales) or trips to the library. We never made the pilgrimage to Disney World for the requisite week long getaway of other North Florida families. The standout year was two weeks of YMCA day camp –while the rest of our friends went away overnight to the nearby Camp Crystal. There was no way they were going to let me, a girl, spend the night away from home. All of these factors meant I never had anything interesting to say for the standard post summer writing exercise, that first essay back from a three month break.
As kids in the ’80s, it didn’t seem we had that much to lose; there was danger, but rarely of the kind that could cause death. This nostalgic feeling of innocence tested came back to me as we watched the new film Moonrise Kingdom. Though the kids in the film engage in some pretty hair raising antics, you can’t help but root for them to succeed or remember longing for such an adventure when you were twelve years old and home with the family. The male and female protagonists write letters back and forth to each other; I used to send postcards to friends away at camp. Do children now text and use BlackBerry Messenger? No anticipation which makes me wonder if there is less longing (and therefore more relationships).
College was a welcome relief because in the late ’90s the study abroad trend was building. I went to China for language study, even explored Turkmenistan as a possibility for a new group location, and as a grad student, volunteered in Costa Rica. Maybe I was making up for all those years of reading the biggest books I could find on the rare occasion we spent three months in India.
Becoming an adult, and being a woman without a child, summer meant the overflow time to squeeze in anything that didn’t fit during the year. Overseas wedding planning, dissertation writing, moving overseas, and then later, having a baby.
But like the idea of a Sabbath, or day of rest, after nearly six years of marriage, this season, my husband and I have been able to have a week in the three week summer trip where we do nothing but rest, play, and eat. The indulgence of this week has helped me loosen the foot which has been pressed into the floor board all year on the writing, teaching, and grading accelerator. Screen time is limited and we even manage to squeeze in some exercise before a show at the cinema. The mere fact we have a three week vacation demonstrates how much has changed and much relative life is: our friends in Qatar (both expat and Qatari) exclaim “So short!” while those in the U.S. eyes us with envy.
There’s a lot to be said for relaxing in the digital age. I won’t bore you with exhortations to unplug and go off the grid when you need to post your Facebook photos or Tweet to keep your followers interested, both of which eliminate any of mystery that the “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay assignment conjured up.
I do hope when we return to the pressures of daily life at the office we come back refreshed with enough juice to make to the next holiday.