Making Summer Last

There’s a war going on the garden, and the buttercups are winning — or they were, until I stepped in to give the bee balm and anemones a fighting chance.

It’s a turf battle that requires early-season tactical moves to preserve the summer backdrop.

Preparation is the key to pleasure. Someone has to set the table for the party.

One year, when the Tigers still played at Michigan and Trumbull, I spent the home opener with Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey in the broadcast booth.

What I remember most from those three hours was Harwell’s use of 3-by-5 index cards meticulously printed with information about players on the visiting team — tidbits he would parcel out, as needed, during lulls in the action.

On the listeners’ end of the radio, that careful attention to detail created a pleasantly seamless and smooth-running narrative.

Summer is as fleeting as the flash of a firefly. Before we know it, June, July, and August have passed, and we find ourselves eyeing early-harvest apples almost before we’ve tasted our first sweet slice of watermelon.

Summertime and the living is easy — if you plan ahead. Not complicated plans, but sweet ones, as easy as Harwell’s Georgia-style storyteller’s delivery.

That means remembering to make fresh-squeezed lemonade even just once. Or sun tea. Or finding out when Ray’s Ice Cream begins selling scoops of its Michigan peach and jotting the date on the calendar.

In a radio interview I once heard, an elderly woman was asked the inevitable question: What would you do differently if you had it to do over again? Her reply: Go barefoot earlier in the spring and longer into the fall, and eat more ice cream.

On languid summer mornings, padding out to the patio in bare feet, a cup of coffee in hand, can make the start of a workday feel like vacation — that is, if we’ve laid the groundwork for relaxation.

“After the Fourth of July, the summer is practically over,” a neighbor once said during one of those warm-weather, impromptu sidewalk confabs. News to me. Like the vacation feeling that doesn’t really kick in until midway through our furloughs, our summer selves don’t really relax until after the fireworks and parades.

When my son was young, I began making summer lists of small things to do — my effort to keep childhood summers from evaporating like an almost-remembered dream.

I still have at least one of those wish lists, and some hopeful ideas are still waiting to get crossed off.

Summers stir unrequited feelings. It’s just their nature.

My mother liked to say, “When summer comes, if it’s on a Sunday, let’s go on a picnic.”
This year, the solstice arrives just a few hours past Sunday. Call it good. Time for a picnic.