The Fourth Marks the Middle

The summer solstice, barely more than a week in the past, marks the official start of the season. But anybody could tell you that the transition isn’t a sudden commencement. There are so many familiar arrivals—warm rains, fireflies, the music of the ice cream truck— that bring each phase of summer in, one by one.

For a kid on summer vacation, the 4th of July always sits heavy in the center of summertime. In the back of your head, you know its coming means that summer is halfway over. But the holiday brings with it a promise of greenness, hotness, humidity. It is the noisy climax, brimming with color and noise and activity. Tomorrow, the back-to-school commercials will start running. But today, there is marching in the streets, the smell of charcoal in the neighborhoods, and bright, booming fireworks in the night sky. We are at the height of life and lushness; the heat, humidity, and merrymaking of summertime all, at once, in full swing.

As you grow older, this outlook changes. Without the school year to define a beginning and an end, things look a little different. You lose the long, idle days that make childhood summers so fondly remembered, but with that change comes a new kind of summertime. Now it can be enjoyed not just as a vacation, but as a whole season of its own. You don’t worry about time markers ticking off the days ’til summer’s end. Instead, you can enjoy the coming and going of each phase of summer—until, sometime in late October, each one has faded entirely away.

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