Life or Something Like It: Saving summer get-aways

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By Suzanne Darland

In my mind, there are two ways of thinking about summer vacation.

One is to schedule it as soon as possible after school’s out or when the calendar turns to the “J” months — taking that cruise or trip to the beach at the beginning of June. After a long, cold winter and interminable spring, some take off at their first opportunity.

One of my colleagues has already returned from a late-May trip to China and Hong Kong, and he’s told us of walking the Great Wall of China and standing on the glass-bottomed observation deck 100 stories up in Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre. Members of our church headed for Myrtle Beach last week to catch some rays, leaving right after vacation Bible school was over.

My preference, however, is to tuck those delicious days away into the waning days of summer. That way I can look forward to them even longer.

If you go on vacation at the beginning of the summer, it’s over too quickly. You go back to work with your vacation in the rear view mirror, summer days still stretching before you. You have pictures and memories of a special trip, but somehow a letdown that the much-anticipated time away is in the past. And you hold down the fort at work while your colleagues take time off. Never mind that you had your turn already; somehow you’re resentful of that closed and locked office door across the hall.

Some have to take early summer vacations to sync with others in their office. Everyone can’t be gone at the same time, of course, and certainly not when critical events are scheduled. I know of office calendars where vacation weeks for the following summer are claimed in the fall. At the college, we have orientation and registration sessions all summer long.

Sometimes our family vacations were put off to the end of summer because we needed to see what weeks were left after other summer activities were slated. At church there’s children’s camp and youth camp and mission trips. And at various times we’ve had one or more children involved in one of these. So we had to claim what time was left, and it often was just before school started again in August.

One of the downfalls of waiting for late vacations, however, is August always is the hottest part of the summer. And because our wedding anniversary is that month, we’ve done our share of sweating in Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Another negative is when we’re away we sometimes miss ripened tomatoes and peppers from our garden that finally are bearing at the end of summer after being coaxed all season to do so.

Still, I like to vacation in early August. Peaches are ripe then, and we look for roadside markets where we travel so we can buy a basket and bite into their sweet flesh, juice dripping off our elbows. South Carolina peaches are best, we think.

We relish the last days of summer, knowing that all too soon we’ll be trading shorts and T-shirts for jackets and sweaters. Maybe a late summer vacation is a way to hold on to summer, to try and keep it from slipping away too soon.

Suzanne Darland teaches journalism classes and is director of the faculty advising center at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.