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Say It’s Not So

Our Dad had a saying that he declared at the conclusion of every July Fourth backyard picnic. His words were most often greeted with shouts and boos from his brood. Just before going in for the night – after entertaining us with his magic tricks and grilling feats – he would announce, “Well, summer is over.” And then he would go into the house, leaving us to groan a bit more.

Summer is over? Of course, he was wrong and the calendar proved it. There were still plenty of sunshine-filled days and evening summer thunderstorms ahead through August. There were still days to spend at the local swimming pool, exploring the nearby stream and long nights chasing fireflies.

In those days, schools didn’t reopen until after Labor Day during the first week of September. Even then, wool knee socks and uniform skirts were most uncomfortable until about mid-October.

We knew fall was about to begin when our Dad would begin the ritual of putting away his blue and white seersucker suits and white buck shoes. His transition to fall was gradual with tan cotton suits that took him through those last hot days into the official start of fall. Then out came the wool sport coats and dark suits.

He taught us the importance of properly shined shoes as well. He had one of those little wooden boxes that held the shoe polish, rags and brushes. We were encouraged to keep our school and church shoes clean and shiny as well.

I believe his shoe polishing habits came from being an altar boy at his beloved St. Alphonsus Church and then again when he served as an Army drill sergeant during World War II.

As for summer’s end, we milked every minute of those days before classes started. I believe the baby boomer generation was spoiled with the freedoms of “running the neighborhood” with little fear of strangers. Unfortunately that changed drastically when times called for both parents to go to work. No longer were mothers at home where they kept a watchful eye on one another’s children as they played in various backyards or sat dreaming on the front curbs.

However my faith in the good old days was renewed recently when I watched a group of youngsters, ages 4 through 12, make the best of their summer outdoor time. These kids spent an entire day preparing a musical production for their parents and neighbors on the expansive driveway of one of their homes.

I witnessed the end result as they sang, danced and cartwheeled their way through the production. It was the kind of pure joy born from the imaginations of a bunch of free-spirited kids on a hot July day in middle America.

I wish my Dad had been there to see it. He might not have been so quick to put a period on the end of summer. For me, I think an exclamation point is more appropriate.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. The shoe polishing can wait.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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