“Feels like time for a change of season.”
Daryl Hall & John Oates
It occurs to me that summer is the only of the four seasons that has a definite end. Now, I know what you’re thinking and you’re right: on the calendar, every season has an actual start and end point and summer ends on September 22nd. But ask any young person: any season that finds you in school ain’t no summer.
Which brings us to Labour Day Weekend, one of the most emotional statutory holidays on the calendar. Labour Day evening, getting ready for bed that night, your mind can’t help but go to the fact that IT’S OVER: when you wake up in the morning, the world has gone ‘back to school’ and summer is definitely over. And even if you’re a single adult with no children, you can’t escape the fact. Whether it’s your own memories or the ‘Back to School’ sales at the mall, it’s all around you.
Just thinking of Labour Day Night gets me misty. I remember as a kid feeling the enormity of the changes that would kick in in the morning. Something as simple as the change in routine seemed heavy. I distinctly remember one particular first day of school tearing up over my Shreddies exclaiming “it’s different!” by way of explanation of my distress.
Then as a young adult out of school it was still on me due to my inclination to listen to music and to watch movies that fit whatever season it happened to be. So, all summer I’d been watching Beach Party movies and listening to the Beach Boys so that, come Labour Day, moving away from that signaled a big change that I found romantic or emotional or simply thought-provoking food for my vivid imagination. Then as a father I lived it again through my kids. I was always keen to not make a big deal out of summer ending so as not to get them bawling along with me.
Here’s the thing about summer: it’s hedonistic. It’s all about freedom, fun, sex and “me”. It seems to me that it’s the most superficial of all seasons, if that’s possible. What I mean is it’s the ‘sexiest’ season: people wear as little as possible and bodies are on display. It’s hot, people are sweating and they go to the beach – there’s just this sense of a ‘lack of depth’ to the proceedings. How you look at the beach is what matters most. Inhibitions and boundaries are at a minimum. This really seems to change when the season ends.
I mentioned music and movies. I don’t like to restrict certain genres, artists or movies to a specific time of year but at the same time certain types of music and certain films ‘go down’ better in the summer. July and August find me gravitating more towards surf music, bossa nova, Jan and Dean, etc. And it’s in the summer that I seem to relate better to films like Tequila Sunrise, Big Wednesday or American International’s Beach Party movies.
But then Labour Day Weekend comes and your thoughts go to every movie you’ve ever seen where the kids have to face the fact that summer is over and it’s back to school. So often this can mean a real ‘coming of age’ when a young person faces the ‘pivot point’ of their life and they have to leave home and go away to school. No more kid stuff. It can be such an emotional time. George Lucas’ second film, the immortal American Graffiti deals with this perfectly. His film depicts a group of young friends having one last big night before the seriousness sets in. To make matters worse, one of their number is going away to college. Lucas’ story adds punch – and has become iconic – partly because he sets it in 1962. This was a time when not only was summer ending but American society as it was known was ending.
Labour Day is a poignant ‘transition’ night. You know you have to get up the next day and bend to your task.
So, what? Does this mean that with the coming of autumn (ie, the day after Labour Day) life becomes terrible? Not at all. We talked about summer being sexy and showy. Autumn, on the other hand, is all about soul. Summer is free and easy, you don’t have to think. But in the fall you’ve got less options for outdoor activities. So things seem to take on more depth. Screaming at the beach gives way to quiet, ponderous walks. You begin to spend more time in the warmth of home, talking to your family, maybe reading. Hot tea. Literally and figuratively, we all come home in the autumn. We settle back down, breathe and think. Crazy nights at the drive-in become sitcoms on the couch. Music can mirror the season perfectly, adding to your enjoyment. Wailing surf guitars or a strutting David Lee Roth are replaced with Stan Getz blowing soft or Sinatra singing about lost love and the wee small hours. The Ink Spots or the big bands. Sounds like home. Cozy. And just think what’s on the horizon: the earthy, family vibe of Thanksgiving. The children’s fun and great, old monster movies of Hallowe’en. And don’t even get me thinking about the glorious Christmas season. So, the End of Summer seems less like an ending and more of a beginning. The beginning of another great – although different – time of year.
The fall is like a train dropping you back at the station after a fun trip abroad. It’s as though at the start of every summer a train picks you up and takes you on an amazing ride. Fun, exhilarating, almost selfish. In the fall, the train returns and it’s back to normal, family, real life.
The summer is a great place to visit. Autumn feels like home.
“We’ve been havin’ fun all summer long.” – the Beach Boys