It seems like just yesterday I was writing about the promises of summer, both kept and unkept.
Well, damned if summertime hasn’t come and gone, my oh my.
It hasn’t technically vanished yet, of course. If I do the math correctly, the equinox won’t happen until roughly 9:30 p.m. Eastern time on September 22.
And, we might still get a shot or two of summery weather. Indeed, this has been such a tame summer where I am that our September and early-October heat waves might end up being the warmest points of the year.
But, if you’re between 5 and 17, the summer has most definitely ended. Either it has in the past two weeks, or it will this week, when the bell rings. (My own kids have two more days of tadpole-wrangling and seed-spitting left. And by the standards of other kids we know in other places across the country, they’re getting off lucky.)
And, really, when the kids go back to school, the summer’s over. The opening of school casts enough of a cultural shadow over the rest of life that those last few calendar weeks of “summer” just aren’t the same.
When the free are no longer free, neither are the rest of us.
This week, we’ll go back to the calendar entries for one last blast of summer sunshine — a little something to carry us into the season of wither.
Southwestern Connecticut can be a foully humid place in the summer. I can remember wanting to spend my birthday there as a kid and my mom declining, in part because the weather was usually so uncomfortable.
For all that, there aren’t that many times on my grandpa’s calendars when the weather reached or topped the 100-degree threshold.
According to news reports, July 13, 1966, found much of the country caught up in a nasty heat wave and drought.
The Associated Press reported 28 deaths in St. Louis alone — where temperatures had topped 100 for four straight days — as well as 100 people treated for heat-related illnesses at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.
Power shortages were forcing utility companies to put rolling blackouts in place in some areas. The weather offered little relief: Severe thunderstorms and high winds were reported in Ohio, the Detroit area and parts of Georgia, while hailstorms were seen on the New York-Vermont line. In Oklahoma, no measurable rainfall had been reported in more than three weeks.
In Chicago, black youth looted stores and broke windows after police turned off a fire hydrant serving as inner-city heat relief. And in Columbus, Ohio, a religious tent meeting came to an early end when high winds stove in the tent — with 600 people inside.
Nothing quite so dramatic happened in Stamford, just an uncommonly stinking summer day. You can see the sun in my grandpa’s drawing dripping heat — or maybe it’s sweating, like everybody else.
I suppose that kind of weather is a little too hot for pleasure, and we should be thankful not to have had any of it this year.
Still, when summer’s over, a 100-degree day can’t help but seem endless and idyllic and lemonade-chilled and open to every possibility.
In the not-too-distant future, the temperature will sink to one-half that … and then to one-quarter that. It will not be entirely unpleasant, this decline, but it will make us miss green grass and sunshine. So, we can take a few minutes and bask in it one last time.
Three weeks ’til the equinox.