Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 3, 1975 · Page 74
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 74

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 3, 1975
Page 74
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Summer's End By John Ed Pearce We may as well face it, summer is about over. Not according to the calendar, maybe, but the calendar says that summer begins in the middle of June and ends in the middle of September, and any kid knows that isn't so. Summer begins the day school lets out, and it ends at different times for different people. If you're young, summer ends the day the pool closes, the day you admit you aren't going to do the things you said you were going to do this summer, the day your mother says, "Get out your school clothes and let's see what you're going to need." If you're older, it ends the day you notice the college kids aren't around any more, the day football pictures appear on sports pages. Suddenly, new-cut grass doesn't smell good any more, no one wants to go on picnics, no one bawls objections when you say it's time to take down the backyard pool. Summer doesn't end, really; it just runs down. Between Labor Day and the first frost the year sags like a wet bathing suit, and no one likes it much. Spring bursts through the death of winter like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, and in its own death is transfigured into lush summer. But the end of summer is a sad time, a time of looking back, perhaps because with each summer's passing something once loved, once lovely , is lost, because something in each of us dies that will not come back again -- illusions, hopes, young summer love, some small bright dream. Our lives are measured in the summers that we live -- not in the great events that shape our world, but in the small bits of life that break off and lodge within the memory -- of a dance where colored lights shone on the water, the smell of roses around the lawn swing on summer afternoons, the color of morning glories along the fence, the feel of walking, arms around, along a beach at sunset. Summer is the time for clouds, creeks that are clear, for climbing hills, digging caves in river banks, planning tree houses, forming clubs, buiMing rafts. Summer is the time for dreams and believing they'll come true, before believing dies and knowledge closes in. For things are changed at summer's end. The pimply boys of June come back to school with deep, if cracking, voices, and the gawky girls of spring have suddenly filled out and look for older eyes. Neighborhoods kids seem to have grown about a foot apiece, the spindly trees along the subdivision street look more like trees. You notice that your dog has gray around the muzzle. Summer is a time of things that slip away from us, of memories the years erode, of feelings, sights and 4m CHARLESTON. W. VA. smells that won't come back again. I know. When I was a boy we had a special summer place where we would go, a small lake high in the mountains above our town, whose icy waters yielded fish and frogs and sometimes snakes, where strange birds called at night and deer came silently to drink at dawn. We learned many things there in the few summers that were given to us, learned the trees and flowers, birds and fish, how to cook our food -- if badly -- how to build a lean-to that seldom kept out the rain, where to find berries, how to gig frogs and steal from farmers in the valley. We learned to use carbide lamps, catch crawdads for bait, endure the misery of rain, roll cigarettes, enjoy the shock of icy water on sweaty bodies. But mostly we loafed, roaming the hillsides, filling our nostrils, lungs and soul with the sounds and smells of the mountains, sprawling on the upland meadows,-living with clouds and bird song and the music of the wind through trees, music that only boys can hear on summer afternoons, the pipes of spring made richer by the woodwinds of summer. Then came a summer when things began to change, and the boys who had always rolled 'their blankets and filled their knapsacks for the long climb up the mountain found things to do in town. They hung around the drugstore, drove up and down Main Street at night, and on Saturdays, when even those who worked could have gone camping up at the lake, they loafed around the swimming pool in the afternoon and went to dances at night. Finally it was the last weekend of vacation, and I knew the haze would hang heavy over the lake and stars would burn in the night sky when the fire had died. But I could find no one to go with me. Come off it, they said. This will be the last big dance at the club before the kids go back to college. It's gonna swing, man. Grow up. And so I went alone, climbing through the crisp morning, setting up my camp, wandering through the mellow day. Never had the lake been so clear, the sky so blue, never had the symphony of summer sung more grandly down the hillsides. But other songs were calling, too, to a growing side of me that yearned to answer and to go. I felt the rhythm of the dance, and slowly, as the day wore on, (he trumpets of the valley sounded stronger than the sweet pipes of tht hills. With a mixture of excitement, sadness, and almost shame to be deserting what had been so dear, had given me so much, I packed and went down the mountain, down to the town: I had a blue suit and two-tone shoes. Before I left for the country club, I shaved. It was'a fine, high evening. I danced with girls in my crowd and older girls going off to college. We went into the locker room with older boys and took a furtive drink of white whisky from a half-pint bottle. The chaperones hardly frowned when couples slipped outside to neck in the moonlight that turned the valley into black and silver patchwork. While the music played, I walked out on the veranda and stood for a moment, happy in the night, the thrill of growing up, and gazed up toward where the moon cast the mountain into shadow, and beyond the mountain where, I knew, the lake was glimmering in the moonlight, and night birds were calling and the wind was sifting softly through the pines. And with a sudden stab of hurt and knowing, I sensed that, somewhere up there on my mountain a door was closing softly; I had passed through, and would not return. And while the drums pounded and the trumpets blared inside, I knew beyond knowing that somewhere on those upland meadows the pipes of summer were playing softly their wild, sweet song, but that they would not play again for me. I was right. I have gone back since, many times, but not to what I left behind', not to what I had and gave away, as each of us must surrender up his youth. And I think of it now, now that another summer is ending. ()c) 1975 Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Co. JOHN ED PEARCE it a member of the Sunday Courier-Journal Times staff. August 3,1975, Sunday Gazette-Mnil

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