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Anticipation for summer break on the rise

Sailboat by the Bay Bridge
Sailboat by the Bay Bridge
Catherine Al-Meten

Iconic artist, Andy Warhol once remarked, “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”

L.M. Montgomery, the author of the popular Anne of Avonlea books, wrote, “When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts...it's like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.”

Anticipation is that feeling that wells up within us when we are waiting for something out of the ordinary to happen. We love our routines, but we also love breaks in the familiar, the day-to-day lives we lead. As we enter the last two weeks before the end of the school year in San Francisco, students, faculty, staff, and administrators, parents and grandparents, and everyone who has any connection at all with schools are waiting for the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation. For grandparents, it is a time when we anticipate getting to spend more time with our children and grandchildren. For children, it is a time full of end-of-year plays, productions, parties, assignments, and the closure of another year of school.

When we were young and going to school ourselves, we waited with anticipation for summer as a time to do any number of things that we didn’t have time to do during the school year. Often, it was a time to travel and visit grandparents and family who lived at a distance. It was a time to head to the library and get a stack of books to read for fun. It was a time for swimming lessons, beach parties, and lazy days looking for a shady spot to hang out with a friend and talk. Summer was also a time to get some big projects done. My mother always had a list of chores we were to do during the summer. Washing the windows and polishing silver were always on the list, especially if I dared utter the words, “I’m bored.” I learned at an early age, that boredom had no place in my vocabulary.

Summer was also a time to be outdoors more often, and to head to the mountains, seashore, and riverside. When I was quite young, my Mother and I would walk the hills of Catalina Island and play in the sand and water in Avalon Bay. As I got older, I would wander the hills by myself, and spend long afternoons paddling around the harbor on a surfboard or swimming and diving off the dock in the harbor. Summer is a time of the sense, and much of what we remember is wrapped up in the sounds, sights, feel, taste of summer vacation. The aroma of hamburgers frying on the grill at Eric’s on the pier, or the for of fish mixing with salt air as I stood on the pier watching the fishermen haul in their catch. The sounds of music playing on transistor radios as I lay on a beach towel with my friends at Seal Beach, or the feel of the waves crashing over me as I dove beneath them on my way to swim beyond the breakers and wait to catch a wave to shore. Summer is a memory of the sting of jelly fish, or the heat and pain on my shoulders of too long a day in the sun. Summer is about long talks, first loves, softball played in parks and on playgrounds, and about barbecues in the backyard. Summer brings memories the fragrance of Night Blooming Jasmine, Honey Suckle, and summer roses.

Summer was also a time to plant and work in the gardens. Father would set aside a portion of his beautiful and well-kept garden for us to plant flower seeds and veggies. One summer I planted corn, and discovered how difficult it can be to cultivate certain plants. Marigolds, daisies, aster, ranunculus, sweet peas, and tomatoes—lots of tomatoes. I grew up where our Meyer Dwarf Lemon and Santa Rose Plum tree bore fruit nearly year round, and wince every time I now have to pay a high price for just one lovely juicy lemon. Summer is full of experiences, times, people, and places that help form our memories and that provide us with different perspectives and experiences to help us form ideas and make connections about what matters and what does not.

Some of my favorite summer memories are of the times my daughter and I spent together. One summer I wanted to take her on a hike, and we started up a dusty trail at the base of Mt. Wilson. As we walked out on the trail, a small garter snake slithered across the trail, and that was the end of that portion of the hike for my daughter. She wanted no part of what appeared to her to be a very uninteresting if not icky stroll. Instead we went to the lovely manicured grounds of Cal Tech in Pasadena. We wandered the clean, concrete pathways, and tossed pennies in the fountain. We found a shady spot for lunch, and enjoyed our time, simply being together.

Not being big fans of loud noises or excessive heat, we often had an indoor picnic on the Fourth of July, and lazed the day away in air conditioned bliss watching the annual Twilight Zone Marathon. One year driving from California to Oregon along Highway 5 with my husband and daughter. I had a captive audience, and as we drove, I read The Oregon Trail aloud—all the way up the interstate. There are memories of reading the Brill Cream signs along the highway, counting red cars, or white horses. And singing—lots of singing. Also time for quiet and peaceful nothings. Aimless, wandering, without purpose or aim. Sometimes it is just the thing to bring us as sense of peace, time to sink more deeply into our thoughts or times to be creative and wistful

In the next few weeks, we will all be moving into a more relaxed time, and hopefully, we will set aside time to just be. Called ‘hanging out’ now, the idea of spending time ‘doing nothing’ and making up the day’s agenda as you go along, is something we all need to incorporate into our lives. A little if not a lot of unstructured time can do much to refresh and regenerate us. While you may have an action-packed summer planned, I hope you find time to spend time with your children and grandchildren, simply discovering the beauty of spending time together, creating, reading, making music, dancing, gardening, walking, taking naps ,and fixing elaborate picnics. Bring some of your favorite memories to life, and see what you would like to share with your children and grandchildren. Get out to the park and enjoy the music at the Yerba Buena Gardens . Visit your library, and be sure to stop in to the new North Beach Library. Explore, listen to one another, play your drums or guitars or piano, and celebrate life outside in open spaces, up on hillsides, along the shore, or wandering the gardens and courtyards of your town or the City. Take a ferry ride across the bay, or bicycle over the Golden Gate.

And make your summer and the summer you spend with your children and grandchildren, a time devoid of conflict, anxiety, or too many expectations. Leave space in your times together, and honor and respect one another’s needs. For many, summer is not a break or a vacation, so provide a little bit of compassion and support to those who probably need the break you are going to have. Make spaces in your days and nights, and create some special memories by giving your undivided attention to simply being together.

Remember the words of Henry James: “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
― Henry James