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Learning lessons of life in summer




 

 

Unofficially, it is now officially summer – that post-Memorial Day stretch of sunshine, sweat and sweetness so different from the rest of the year and so much more memorable. Everything I needed to know I learned during the summer. As did the folks below:

What a Real Care Package Is:

“I went to a camp where most kids’ parents were divorced,” recalls Mandy Hass, a business consultant. Because those parents arrived (separately) with gobs of candy, “I was already feeling more than a little jealous when my parents, who were not divorced, still hadn’t arrived.”

“I was waiting – forgotten? – at the dirt-road camp entrance, when finally our family station wagon rumbled up. Out came our old plaid picnic blanket, a Thermos of piping hot Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and PBJ on Wonder Bread. Same meal I’d insisted on eating on every family car trip, but it had never tasted so good. I took turns hugging my parents between bites.”

That night, as her bunkmates compared dual-parent candy, Mandy couldn’t compete. “But somehow I knew that they probably would have traded all their candy for what I had.”

What Appears To Be a Curse May Be a Blessing:

As he sat on a stoop with Clyde, his English setter who was eating a hot dog, 7-year-old Dan Collins patted the pooch’s head. Bad move.

Clyde lunged. Clyde bit. Clyde gnawed. “After that, things went fuzzy,” says Collins, a Baltimore native. As the ambulance wailed, “I remember wondering, ‘Why don’t I feel any pain?’ They told me I was in shock, and I kept thinking to myself: ‘I LIKE SHOCK.'”

Up till then, Collins had been a wild kid. “After Clyde, I stopped going outdoors and began cultivating a rich inner life – and rich diet. I was fast becoming an after-school special.” Bravado down, grades up – his fate was sealed. Instead of becoming a construction worker, “I became a writer.”

Sometimes man’s best friend works in mysterious ways.

Get Back Up and Kick That Ball:

As a child at day camp, Russell Schaffer had one goal: “I always wanted to be ‘Camper of the Week.’ So there I am, every week, kicking that kickball, doing drama and singing. And week after week, I didn’t get it.”

“Then,” the 31-year-old’s voice catches a bit, “one Friday afternoon, we’re eating our icecream sandwiches, and they’re announcing, ‘The Camper of the Week is Russell’ – and I jump up and run on stage!”

Surprise! There were two Russells at camp. Only one was a winner. “I felt like Charlie Brown with the football.”

Come Monday, just like Charlie Brown, Russell was back again, kicking that ball, “and across the field, I see my mom, and she’s talking to the camp director. I don’t know what they talked about,” he says, “but guess who won ‘Camper of the Week’ the next Friday?

And guess who still insists she only was talking about the bus schedule?

Let Time Go, and It Comes Back to You:

“We used to go to this place in Vermont,” says Lenny Cassuto, an English professor. “A pine forest. The best part was that after it rained, the salamanders would come out, and I would bring a bowlful of them back. They’d move both of their right legs forward and then their left, so they sort of waddled.”

Then the place was sold, his parents bailed, and the sala- manders were left in peace. Until a few years ago.

As his parents shopped in a nearby outlet, they learned that the cabins were under new ownership. They rented one for themselves and separate ones for Cassuto, his brother – and the grandkids.

“There’s an E.B. White essay, ‘Once More to the Lake,’ where he takes his son to the lake that he used to summer at as a kid and watched his son do all the things he did, and I basically lived that essay,” Cassuto said. His daughter collected salamanders and watched them waddle, “and I wrote something unusually maudlin in the cabins’ guest book.”

The sweetness of summer is fleeting. Enjoy it while you’ve got it.

Lenore Skenazy is a columnist at The New York Sun and Advertising Age.

©2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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