Some years ago I had a very depressing conversation with my brother, Tom. We were talking about how quickly time seems to pass, and as an example, how the summer months, which seemed to last forever when you were a kid, fly by when you become an adult. Tom, you probably know, is a math man. He said, Well, it’s like this: think 3/x, letting x = your age in months. As x increases in value, the ratio of summer time to life time gets smaller and smaller. Infinitesimally smaller.
Do the math. When you are one year old, summer is 25 percent of your lifetime. That’s practically forever and you’re too stupid to realize it (more proof, as if we needed it, that youth is wasted on the young). At age five, or sixty months, those three summer months are now a mere 5 percent of your lifetime, at age 10, 3 percent—still a relative eternity. You see where I’m going with this: at age twenty-one, 1.2 percent; fifty, 0.5 percent; at age 65, 0.384615 percent. If we were to graph this ratio, you would see a line (representing ease, breeze, warmth, sweet corn, languorous evenings) skidding along the x axis toward zero; toward, that is, oblivion and all-out winter. Blink, and summer is over.
You would think, following this logic, that winter would seem shorter too. It doesn’t. Winter has a logic all its own, a cruel logic. As you get older, winters seem longer, and colder, and more punishing. Last Sunday the first big snow came to town. My snow blower wouldn’t start. Something’s amiss in its little carburetor. In the vicinity of the fuel line there’s a red rubber bulb you depress with your thumb in order to express gasoline into the cylinder. If you hear the telltale gurgle, you can pull the engine to life and go for a cold walk. All right, it’s kinda fun. Alas, that day there was no gurgle. No gurgle, no gas, no go, no horsepower; no snow blow. I defaulted to an honorable, if primitive technology: the shovel. Oh, as the sages liked to say, my aching back.
This situation, this increasingly fleeting experience of summer, is why people move to Florida. Or in the case of David Bailey, to California. Yes, he and his companion Dana packed up their Manhattan apartment and decamped, splitting for LA, where summer is forever. (Cue the Beach Boys.) David says, “We’ve got a pool, dad.” He says, “I skateboarded to Costco today, dad.” He says, “It’s cool today, dad, like in the 60s.” He says, “We’re living the dream.” I hope so. Tizi and I had started to really love NY. Half a dozen times we drove from Michigan to NYC for a visit, ten hours on I- 80 at 77 per, taking us through grimy Jersey City to the Holland Tunnel, thence to Union Square.
Suffice to say I now read sections of The New Yorker with a certain sense of loss while looking to the west with a corresponding sense of hope and possibility for David and Dana and their cat Beverly, contemplating those measly sixty degrees and feeling, well, a bit of envy.
This situation, this increasingly fleeting experience of summer, is also why people want children, and grandchildren. A return to summer; those warm, vicarious Junes. Our grandson Gabriel, two years old, is still in his long summer. And yet… Recently he had his first haircut. Two years of growth beneath the blade. You should have seen all his hair. Curls and ringlets fell almost to his shoulders. Gorgeous hair.
On the streets, in public places, people stopped, dumbstruck, and said, “Wow, she has such beautiful hair.” And “Oh my, she has amazing curls.” And we said, “Yup, he sure does.” His mother finally got him a tiny little trim, more cutlet than cut, and he was not fazed. We, the adults, the elders, were a little fazed, by the idea of it. A rite of passage. Beauty boy, as Lisa is wont to call him. No worries. He’ll grow more hair.
Tizi likes to say, “Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?” She’s always saying things like that. Where are the snows of yesteryear? (Look at the forecast, my love. We’re going to get hammered.) And in so saying captures the wistfulness so poignantly expressed in the graph above.
Yesteryear made 2016 hard to weather—an election, so many deaths, so much terrible mayhem in the world. All around us, as that poet said, “ignorant armies clash by night.” Yet this is the season of hope, of hope against hope.
We reach out to you with love and remembrances of summers, wishing you well and good.