Summer’s labor lost

PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

This was the summer that never happened. Oh, sure, the sun warmed our backs. The days stretched long. We ate a watermelon and dipped our toes in the lake. The summer “happened”; we just weren’t *relaxed* for more than a few hours of it. It was like waiting for a repairman to arrive at any time … for three months.

Our dog died. I started a major research project. We had several indoor remodeling projects. The fence was broken. One of our sons signed up for baseball, which we didn’t realize involved a month of sitting on bleachers and $175 worth of Laffy Taffy. We got a puppy. All of this caused our days and weeks to whiz by like the glinting reflections of a wristwatch in bright daylight.

They say life is like this. Our twin boys turned 10 this summer. Our oldest, 12, helped haul downed logs with a four-wheeler after a storm. That sure went fast. Four years from driving. Eight years they’ll all be adults. After that, who knows? If we live, we’ll be older. And that is how it goes.

On one hand, what were we expecting? What was summer supposed to be? Perhaps that Corona TV ad set an unrealistic standard back in June. No bikini girls. No stylish Cuban fedoras. I don’t even drink. I did, however, download a Toots and the Maytals reggae album in July, which helped.

You can’t say the word “summer” without thinking “vacation.” It’s one of the earliest things you learn as an American. School (work) is prison, and summer is your parole. When you’re a kid, that means being bored until August when you realize that you weren’t really bored. You ran through tall grass, jumped off the dock, and caught fireflies. Not too shabby. Too bad they don’t pay you for that.

When you grow up, summer is still intractable from vacation. Unfortunately, the word “mortgage” is also intractable from the word “payment.” Thus, the summer vacation becomes expensive and easy to miss. An unexpected spring bill turns the Yellowstone trip into a day trip to Wisconsin. Kid yacks in the back seat and it’s all for not. So you’ve got to make do.

That’s what’s nice about living in a temperate climate like Minnesota. (And it’s easier to call that on Labor Day than on New Years). With four distinct seasons, you always have a handle on the passage of time. One summer doesn’t go so hot, another one is coming around the horn.

The etymology of the word “vacation” is simple. It means “to vacate a job for the purpose of recreation or tourism, often in the form of a specific trip.”

It’d be hard to argue that this summer hasn’t been a trip. We saw bears at the Vince Schute Wildlife Refuge near Orr. We saw F-16s screech over our heads at the Duluth Air Show. Our family visited a few parks and local attractions we’d never seen before. And cuddling a puppy is way better than waiting in line at the airport.

Labor Day typically marks the end of summer. The kids go back to school this week. White pants return to the closet. (That is, if you ever got the grape juice stains out). Wearing shorts starts to feel weird again. Long sleeves. Pumpkin spice. We wonder whether the furnace still works.

Maybe this summer didn’t rock your world. Maybe life has a way of creeping up on you. Yet no season survived is ever wasted.

As John Lennon once sang, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sept. 3, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


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