It seems like only about two weeks ago that last year’s battered three-ring binders and worn-out backpacks were being carelessly tossed aside for the summer.
Welcome to Labor Day, folks. Tomorrow is back-to-school day, unless you live in one of those unlucky jurisdictions that goes back to class even earlier.
Kids across America will spend today trying to fulfill the last promises of summer — sticking their bare feet in the creek one last time, or glutting themselves with one last all-day game of basketball, or making one last effort to jerry-rig a ramp tall enough to sail their bike across the street on the fly.
Hopefully the weather will cooperate. There’s not much worse than sitting inside, watching your last hours of freedom dwindle as the rain pounds down on the windows.
Thirty-nine years ago around this time, the weather was more than cooperating, at least at New England’s southwestern tip. The schoolkids of Fairfield County reveled in a sweltering final few days of summer — perfect times for a trip to the beach, or a basement beer party to take the edge off the near-tropical heat.
(It was sometime in the late ’70s that Connecticut magazine ran a controversial cover story about youth alcoholism, illustrated by a memorable photo of a glazed-looking young boy holding a bottle. I don’t find it online anywhere; perhaps it lives only on microfilm. Bad for property values, you know.)
My grandpa, having recently turned 63, was in no mood to kick up his heels in the last days of summer 1973. He didn’t react too well to hot weather. And the last weeks of that particular summer were probably the single hottest stretch on the 15 years of calendars in my family’s collection.
Regular readers will recall the week’s worth of punishing weather at the end of August that led my grandpa to coin the memorable expletive “blisterbitcher.”
Well, it took a while to let up:
This was the sort of heat wave that, 250 or 300 years earlier, would have had the settlers of New England casting suspected sinners out of their communities in attempts to please their angry God.
My grandpa was much more fatalistic and accepting, declaring — with a charming touch of drama — “Roast, ye mortals!”
How much longer did it last after Sept. 4? Not very much longer, as it turned out.
Wednesday, Sept. 5, was humid but cooler, with clouds and a high of 78. It was also, as per my grandpa’s calendar, the first day of the school year.
So the kids at Rippowam and Stamford High and Westhill High got their money’s worth out of the last days of summer before they staggered back to class, tan and happy.
And my grandpa finally got to rest his head on a cool pillow and get a good night’s sleep in his stuffy, aging house.