Summer not wasted, not all spent

For many, Labor Day ends the season of daydreams and day trips

September 04, 2006|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,sun reporter

No one ever says winter went by too fast.

But summer is a different story. By the time school lets out, and the swimming pools are no longer shiveringly cold, the days are getting shorter. July and August streak through in a sticky blur of sweat and cicadas and suddenly it's September: a time to mourn the picnics not packed, the trips not taken, the fish not hooked.

Melanie Johns, 13, a freshman at Catonsville High, planned to go camping with friends but got grounded and had to stay at home. Bob Schumann, 76, wanted to fish in Southern Maryland but was too busy working in the garden of his Parkville home. Curtis Ferguson, 67, a retired postal worker, did fish from the bridge at Loch Raven last week but never managed to get up to Pennsylvania for the NASCAR races.

"At the beginning of the summer, you always think it's going to be the best summer ever," said 16-year-old Sarah Swenson, a lifeguard at a Lutherville pool. "And then, all of a sudden, it's over."

Summer doesn't officially end for nearly three more weeks. But after Labor Day - and maybe earlier for the kids who started school last week - the season is a lame duck.

Like linen and white shoes, summer daydreams are best put away for another year.

On Thursday at York Manor Swim Club, Sarah and two other lifeguards stared gloomily at an empty pool. Justin Rice, 17, half-heartedly scrubbed the walkway, Hahn Je, 17, stretched his calves, and Sarah slid slowly down a lounge chair as if she were melting.

A week or two ago, the teenagers would have been busy telling kids to stop running and keeping an eye on daredevils flipping off the diving board, but on this day, only a breeze troubled the water. The morning's lone visitor had sipped a soda and, without even dipping a toe in the water, left.

Sarah had hoped to visit Ocean City a few times with friends this summer but never made it. Now, as her junior year at Bryn Mawr looms ahead of her, she wishes that she had spent less time working and more time having fun.

Yet a trip to the ocean does not necessarily head off the end-of-summer blues. Just ask 9-year-old Grant Gilmore, who not only went to Ocean City, but also traveled to a family reunion in Virginia Beach, tubed on the Gunpowder Falls, rode a bike trail and went fishing. But he still wasn't satisfied with his summer.

"I wanted to go to Ocean City one more time," Grant said as he fidgeted with his new school uniform a few days into fourth grade at Immaculate Conception in Towson. He had daydreamed of jet-skiing, playing miniature golf and going to Assateague Island.

His 8-year-old brother, Danny, tossed pennies into the fountain at the Shops at Kenilworth and thought about lazy summer days hanging out in their Hunt Valley home.

"It was a lot funner than just going to school every day," he said.

Martin F. Sherman, a professor of psychology at Loyola College, said the end of summer can leave young and old with a sense of longing.

"It's a change, and generally people don't like change," Sherman said. "Their environment is changing, and people have to adjust."

Sherman had intended to paint his deck this summer, but somehow, that never happened. "Now my wife says, `Fall is here and what's going to happen to our deck?'" Sherman said.

As evening squeezes the day shorter, we feel a little wistful, Sherman said. "It's the end of growth and preparation for quiet, dormant time in nature and, to a certain extent, in ourselves," he said.

Munching pizza at the Kenilworth mall food court on a cloudy day, Tim Fenhagen, 18, a senior at Calvert Hall and Sean Connors, 17, a senior at Loyola High School, looked morose.

"It's kind of sad 'cause you realize it was your last summer as a quote-unquote kid," said Sean, who spent the past few months scooping ice cream at Uncle Wiggily's on York Road. "It seems to go faster and faster as the years go by."

Val Magenta, 51, was so busy washing, trimming and blow-drying dogs at the Groomery on Frederick Road in Catonsville that she said she barely even noticed that it was summer. Between the drought and her tight schedule, she and her husband didn't get the chance to finish landscaping the yard of their home in Randallstown.

"This is something we're going to finish next spring," Magenta said with a sigh.

The Groomery's owner, Kathy Swoboda, said that she was happy, at least, that her sons had returned to high school and college classes, because she now has food in her refrigerator again. "You'd come home, and you'd know there had been a whole lot of boys there," Swoboda said.

A few blocks away, next to faded signs advertising melons and sweet corn, Ana Crisan, 22, huddled in a hooded sweat shirt and worked on a book of Sudoku puzzles. Since June, she has sold produce from the back of a blue pickup to raise money for college tuition in her native Romania.

Now the cars rush by more quickly, and fewer people pull over to pick up peaches or tomatoes. So she sits and works her puzzles and occasionally glances up to notice a yellow leaf drifting down.

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