Hi dear readers!  Here’s my farewell to summer column; it’s in today’s Greenville News.

Enjoy!

Well, the blackberries are tiny, hard balls on the bushes.  The dogs never come out from under the porch, except at night.  The pool is now the temperature of a very large hot-tub and the wind has all but ceased to blow here.  School supplies have been purchased and  both children and parents are ready to get back to the work of education.  Summer is nearing its end

            It feels for all the world as if I stepped in some kind of time-machine on Memorial Day, and was hurled forward to August.  But fast as it was, I do remember some things that are worth passing on to you, my sweltering, exhausted friends.

            First of all, a few thoughts on camping.  We only camped once this summer.  It was a wonderful reminder that our pioneer ancestors may have enjoyed the intimacy of the campfire and the peace of a world free of cell-phones.  But they did it while covered in sweat and grime, and while lying on rocky ground, as rain dribbled through tents and temporary shelters, being eaten by mosquitos and dreaming vaguely of some fast-food alternative to freshly clubbed rabbits, fried corn-meal or old jerky.  In all likelihood, they would have looked at our camps and asked why we left the house.

            Of course,  while camping I also learned that my daughter is fearless about baiting a hook, and that my boys could probably survive with only a cane-pole and a cup of worms.  And by way of advice, when you pitch your tent on a slight incline, all of the children roll downhill onto your body in the night.

            Next, a lesson for fathers and daughters. My wife and sons went with our church on a mission trip to Louisiana.  I cannot speak for them; though I hear tales of alligators on the church step and of (to repeat a theme) mosquitos the size of humming-birds.  And while they built and taught, my daughter Elysa and I stayed home and taught one another, building our bond even stronger.  We laughed, played, watched movies, went on a dress-up date and simply talked about everything.  I learned what I already knew; the bond of father and daughter is sacred and priceless.  And it involves occasional (terrifying) dancing.

            I also learned some truths at church camp:  If the temperature is any indication, Columbia and surrounding areas are paradoxically near the equator.  Getting lost in the middle of SC is like being lost in the desert, with no discerning landmarks.  And my sons are spiritually profound, but are also red-blooded males who are old enough to ignore me in favor of the fairer sex. 

            There, I also discovered that a dorm room filled with men and boys emits an odor much like an animal den.  And that it is repulsive to passing women, who suddenly recoil, cover their faces and ask, ‘what’s that smell?’  It was at church camp, in the wake of the World Cup, that I realized that the buzzing noise of the World Cup is made by an instrument called a vuvuzela.  And that it is entirely possible to threaten teenage boys so that they don’t play it at night, if you look crazy enough when you say ‘I mean it, Jesus loves you but I’ll kill you.’

            Regarding water-parks and theme-parks.  It’s embarrassing to be kicked off of a slide with your children because you’re too big.  I mean old.  I mean tall.  Shoot, you know what  I mean.  And there should be a law about swim-wear.  I won’t say anymore than that.  As for roller-coasters, they used to be such fun!  Now, days after riding several of them, I feel as if I have been assaulted with a golf-club.  The children laughed and screamed, and all I could wonder was if I’d be decapitated in the tunnel, if my eyes could actually pop out, and if my kidneys had been broken in half.  That was before my near-cardiac arrest on the first hill of one of the world’s largest coasters.

            I suppose I’m ready to move on.  I do long for some cool evenings. But the most important lesson of summer is to never, ever wish it away.  Mosquitos, campsites, stinging insects, church-camps and water-slides alike, I’d do it all over again.  Because summer, like childhood, just goes by too quickly to take it all in the first time around.

            But I’d leave out the vuvuzela.  And I mean it.

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