Is summer over already?

When I went back to teaching full time about three years ago, one of the things I looked forward to most was having seven full weeks off in the summer. I have never had more than a week off here or a long weekend there, just long enough to squeeze in a trip to the beach or to see the parents, then hustle back barely in time to get home, unpack, eat cereal for dinner, collapse, then get up and go back to work the very next day. Aren’t vacations supposed to be refreshing, or invigorating, or at least relaxing? Then why did I always have the feeling after a vacation that I needed ANOTHER vacation to recover from my vacation before going back to work?

I was sure all of that would be over when I went back to teaching and suddenly had most of the summer off. Just think of it. Nearly two full months. No more rushing around to get to and from the beach. No more stressing out over having to pack late on Thursday night so we could leave right after work on Friday. No more working all day long, then driving for several hours immediately afterward, the kids screaming in the back for French fries, for orange juice, for Sponge Bob, for whatever they can think of from moment to moment.

Sound like fun? Just relax, you’re on vacation!

With the summers off, we would be able to take our time on trips. We could pack for days if we wanted, at the most leisurely pace, maybe the socks and underwear today, the shirts tomorrow, the pants the day after that — there would be PLENTY of time to pack, plenty of time to drive, plenty of time period. We could leave whenever we wanted, come home whenever we wanted. It would be tremendously relaxing.

Even better, I thought I would be able to resume hobbies I had practically given up due to the requirements of my previous job. When, for example, was the last time I played a simple round of golf? When was the last time I read a meaty novel? When was the last time I had been shopping for vintage records? I wasn’t even sure where my golf clubs were, but I was going to find out. With all of my newfound spare time, by the end of summer, I’d be a scratch golfer, tearing up the fairways at least three days a week. I would read a novel every three days, curling up on the sofa at night listening to jazz records I had bought earlier in the day while working my way through the collected works of Norman Mailer, or Joyce Carol Oates, before finally moving on to the Russians by mid-July.

By the time school rolled back around in mid August, I would be totally relaxed and utterly refreshed, ready to teach as I had never taught before, ready to dazzle my students with an array of new techniques I had cooked up while waiting for various foursomes in front of my group to finish up on the green ahead of us. I would scribble notes on the back of the scorecard, then perfect them later on that evening after dinner.

Of course, there would be ample opportunity to spend quality time with my wife, as well as my kids. We would spend a lot of time at the park, outside playing ball, taking day trips to the zoo, or the swimming pool, or wherever the breeze blew us that day. We would play ball in the yard, or make homemade ice cream on the deck, or grill hamburgers while Jack harassed the dog with a garden hose turned on full blast.

Three years later, the portrait of summer I had in my head has all but faded from memory, bearing little resemblance to summers as I actually spend them. I still have not played any golf, and the collected works of Joyce Carol Oates and Norman Mailer remain to be read, although I do manage to get a novel in here or there.

What am I doing instead? Well, we just finished staining and touching up the deck, about three coats worth. We also patched and painted the concrete and redid the trim around the house. Last summer, we took out the carpet in two bedrooms and replaced it, along with replacing the faucet and quite a bit of the plumbing in our kitchen sink. This year, it was the bathtub.

Somehow, my vision of summers off did not include stain, or washers, or X-Acto blades. But we do cook out a lot. And the dog hates that garden hose.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Waynesville. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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