Summer is here. School is out. Other rhythms must evolve to limn the suburban day. The test papers have all been graded, the popularity tears have dried and the car pools have subdivided into the original family puddles. The sun beams down on parents and children, brothers and sisters, learning again the joys — ouch, stop pinching me! — of each other’s company. The green grass provides a comfortable cushion — hey, what is this squishy spot? — for the sundry poses of the indolent.
Here in Miami, the tropical clime slows motion to the veriest crawl. We loll languidly through these delightful moments of living.
MY SON, AT 16, IS AN ACCOMPLISHED high-school baseball player with one hurdle he is powerless to overcome. The private school he attends does not field a team. In theory he is eligible to play for the local public school but their practice schedule conflicts with class. But in the summer they continue their competitive season, and the coach was glad to add him to their squad. Result: I am sitting in the bleachers watching my son play for the school where he is a theoretical student. He knows most of the players from Little League in years past, so everyone gets along.
The stands are dotted with parents like me, but packed with these little wannabe girlfriends of the straining-toward-adulthood players. Their enthusiasm for the team is exceeded only by their ignorance of the rules. Which makes me the avuncular guy who knows the answers and can practice pedagogy without pedantry.
“Wait. Why does the runner have to go back to first base?”
“Because the batter hit the ball foul.”
“Why is it foul if he hit it?”
“Anything outside those white lines is called foul.”
Or this one:
“Why was he out if he didn’t swing?”
“Because that was strike three.”
“How could it be a strike if he didn’t swing?”
“If the ball is around the middle of his body and it goes over that white plate thing over there, it is an automatic strike.”
Ignorance is indeed bliss. Those boys have to worry about disappointing the coach but are not very likely to disappoint their little admirers…
MY DAUGHTER, FRESHLY 14, TOOK A POSITION as a counselor in a day camp/day care. She and another girl each receive an extra ten dollars over their salaries for changing the toddlers’ diapers. Now she complains to me that the other girl is really cheating on the deal because she is, um, only doing #1 and leaving my daughter all the #2.
“Well,” I say. “If she is being given a fee for a specific service and she is failing to provide that service, then it is time for the camp to make that fee cease.”
“What did I say?”…
THE REPORT CARDS COME in the mail. The teachers write a denser brand of gobbledygook in their evaluations than policemen do in their reports. The poipetrators drive automobiles brown in color and yadda yadda yadda. Here the collective configuration of the characterological proclivities engender the optimistic potentialities.
“What does this mean? ‘Your self-awareness will serve to ensure enhanced advancement in future educational undertakings.'”
“It means you’re doing well.”
“What did I say?”…
IN THEORY, I USUALLY SPEND my days slaving away in my home office, producing the written word in various guises and permutations to serve the pleasure of finicky editors. Without kids around, I have been known to fall into the nearest bed on occasion, to take a mentally rejuvenating hour of “inner tranquility” that revivifies the creative faculties. Seen by an amateur, this activity can be mistaken for a nap. It is possible that my son fell into that trap the other day.
“Hey, Dad, what are you doing in my bed?”
“Really, did you pay for it? Show me the receipt and I will be glad to evacuate.”
“What did I say?”…
YEP, SUMMER IS HERE. A time for relaxation but also a time for recreation, though not of the frenetic Disney World variety. Washington, D.C., seems awfully far away, as does the Kennebunkport Summit, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Glasgow car bombs, even the Texas floods. If only the rest of existence would adopt our leisurely pace, there would be a brief respite, peace on earth.
In the meantime, I think I will just keep lounging on my lawn chair, and wait for the rest of the world to catch up. Ouch! What kind of insect was that?
(With apologies to the late Irwin Shaw for stealing the title from his fine novel of that name.)
Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator. He also writes for Human Events.