The Sun Goes Down on Summer

I remember my mom telling me as I got older time would speed up. As a petulant teenager, becoming an adult could not come fast enough. Oh, the freedom I would have! I would live my life as a free spirit and live happily ever after. Now? I just want time to slow down. …

As a teacher, 32 years of my adult “free spirit” life was spent like this — 10 months of discipline, high adrenaline, rules, routine, marking papers nightly and weekends, looking after 408 problems with only 27 resolutions, lesson planning the ultimate class discussions, having photocopier wars I could never win, leading two different departments for many of those years, then crashing on Friday night of sheer exhaustion. I was in scheduled spin classes three times a week, I walked the dog faithfully twice a day — I was a machine for ten months. I knew how many miles I needed to spin to offset the wine. Saturday was housework day, and Sunday was getting-ready-for-Monday day. For 197 school days and the subsequent weekends, that was the life. Living the dream I would say. …

But summer. Ooh la la. Summer was lazy. Hedonistic. I indulged and overindulged in all things bad [and good] for me. Too many steaks for supper in any given week, a second helping of potato salad, and anything carb-related. Dessert? Of course, it’s summer. Fourteen pieces of toast or bagels in the morning? Why not. Mornings don’t end ‘til noon. More money was spent on wine and other libations. My beer margaritas were a daily favorite. I mean, why not? It’s summer.

Even though I had more time, I spent less time in organized exercise. A break was needed. I read books that had nothing to do with curriculum, partook in the proverbial nap, overdid everything — I stayed up late, and by the time summer ended, my bladder returned to functioning any time of the day. I showered every second day, and maybe shaved my legs on the third. Makeup was a suggestion, and dresses and “teacher” clothes were out.

Upon return to the civilization of September, I always referred to Lord of the Flies when I explained summer to my students. “Here’s the deal kids. I just spent eight weeks in unrestrained reckless abandon. Once the swelling goes down around my girth, you will be able to see my eyes again.” I expanded in all ways. For eight weeks with no regrets.

When people would ask me “What do you do for a living?” and I would share my epic life as a high school teacher, inevitably I would get either one of these responses: “Oh, I could never be a teacher,” or “Wow, you get summers off. Lucky.”

Summers “off” were exactly that. Off. Turned off, shut off, auto off. There was no luck involved in summers “off.” I earned each and every day in July and August. So it is no surprise that I have not shed that mentality in retirement. I mean, who would willingly give up eight weeks of a slovenly lived existence? Now that I have earned retirement, I just can’t say goodbye to the summers I am used to living. I have now spent two summers in the great state of Texas, and it appears I am still living the experienced teacher summer. Two summers of the most sweltering heat a northerner could ever have, and I have loved every minute of it.

The retired life is pretty swell. It’s almost like summer for 12 months now, except September is still drilled in my brain as “time to get back to work,” and I have added June into the “summer schedule.” I mean, why not? See in retirement, I can do that without any penalty off my pension check. They will deposit it into my bank account whether I work or not. How great is that?

I don’t need to try on my pantaloons to know they do not fit — no need for pants in Texas ‘til January anyway, so there’s plenty of time to shed those summer pounds. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I have thought about the need for more salads and less wine these past few weeks. The old September feelings have been slowly rustling in. Mind you, I just spent three days in Sonoma drinking some wonderful wine, so perhaps the discipline and desire will show up next week. Certainly hasn’t been this week. Next Monday is a great day to start the September trek to discipline.

As a Bed and Breakfast owner, I have the great privilege of cooking whatever I want. And whatever I want is lovely and wonderful, because who wants to come for an overnight stay and be fed grass-fed oats, or a sliver of fat-free anything? No one. And what kind of business owner would I be if I didn’t taste everything I cooked? I can hear Gordon Ramsey now—“TASTE EVERYTHING!!” And I do. As much sourdough as I can, all the egg dishes, an extra potato here and there, bacon like there is no tomorrow. Cinnamon buns are inhaled like a fat kid on a smartie. So, you add that to 56, and well, things have enlarged. That being said, I am perfectly happy. I also feel I have less time on the earth than I did at 42. I have always felt life is short so I should act accordingly — and I certainly can kick that adage down the road for a long, long time. Given all of that, I have no plans to change anytime soon. That is also 56. I am honing my old lady skills as we speak with utter mirth.

So summer 2023 — it’s been real. I am grateful for those in my circle who have pools and floating devices with a spot for my drink. I definitely wholeheartedly made good use of them. I remained committed to beer margaritas and very little exercise in the Texas heat. When the temperatures cool down to a balmy 99, I shall cheer with my pumpkin latte in hand, dust off my bike, pick up my weights, and start getting serious about September. That might be end of September, but I am no quitter.

After all, Halloween candy will soon be on the shelves. And, as a Canadian, I feel it important to continue to celebrate my native Thanksgiving in October. And well, of course, I live here in Texas, so it would be just rude to bypass American Thanksgiving. Then by that time, it will be Christmas. Maybe I just don’t worry about this currently trending lifestyle of mine until January. Isn’t that when all the good resolutions happen? [wink wink]

Colleen McCullough

Owner of The Virginia May Bed and Breakfast @ Eagle Mountain Lake

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