Our own celebrations will be more low-key. A.J. is spending the day with the rest of the kids in his day camp visiting a zoo. And my wife is celebrating by going to Trader Joe’s and buying our first watermelon of the season. If the rain holds off, maybe we’ll make it the centerpiece of a picnic.
For me, the first day of summer is the perfect time to start thinking about how short summer is, how quickly it passes, and how its transience inevitably leaves you with a gnawing awareness of missed opportunities and your own mortality. I dug out a quarter-century-old column headed “Summer’s end recalls memory of a faded dream,” written by former Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist John Schulian. My old friend, M. had clipped it out and sent it to me right after it was published on September 24, 1983. M. and I were both sophomores in college then, and aspiring writers, and Schulian’s just slightly overwritten piece—which managed to be about baseball and death and chances not taken, while name-dropping Tom T. Hall, Yeats, White Sox DH Ron Kittle and the Police—struck us as exactly the kind of thing we wanted to write someday.
(I googled Schulian to see what had become of him and learned that, among other accomplishments, he helped create the TV show “Xena: Warrior Princess.”)
Schulian’s column begins:
Up ahead, you could see a full moon sandwiched between thick, wet clouds. Beneath them glowed the lights of Chicago, turning the soggy heavens red-orange and proving that this ribbon of highway actually led somewhere. Another country radio station faded into oblivion inside the car, so you pressed a button and came across the White Sox, summer's golden children at play on a night made for antifreeze.
Their presence should have been a comfort at 70 miles an hour, just as it had been since they used June as their launching pad to glory. But now the Sox were bidding adieu to their regular season at home. They weren’t going to return to Comiskey Park until October’s playofs, and the thought left you feeling as empty as a farewell at a train station. Summer was over.
All you could do about it was punch another button on the car’s radio, punch another button and hope you would hear the Police singing “Every Step You Take.” [sic!] For that was the song that provided the background music for the last three months, lingering in your mind whether you were mowing the lawn or trying to describe the cosmic significance of the infield fly rule. . .
I keep that column in a little cigar box along with a few other treasures—a grade-school-era rosary, some collar stays—and I still give it a read every now and then. Comiskey Park is gone, the Police are back, I don’t hear much from M. anymore, and the White Sox (“summer’s golden children”) aren’t as much fun to watch these days as they were in 1983 or in 2005, for that matter.
But summer starts this afternoon, and my kid is really excited about it. Who am I to disagree?