The (Too) Short Season Of Fun In The Sun

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Do you remember what you did during summer vacation? Note how I refer to it as summer “vacation” and not summer “break.” There’s a reason for this.

Summer “break” connotes that time between spring and fall semesters during college. You usually have a summer job or some sort of internship. Summer “break” entails a break from the routine. You travel from your college either back home or to whatever city you end up working or interning in.

While a break from schoolwork, it’s not a break from work. After all, you do have to pay for college somehow.

Now, a summer “vacation” means something totally different. It evokes memories of a carefree time. No longer bound by homework, tests, and the omnipresent “teachers’ dirty looks,” you’re now free to roam about the neighborhood. Play when you want. Relax when you want. Think or not think whenever you want.

It’s like retirement before you even started your career.

Summer “vacation” therefore represents a true vacation. You’re no longer responsible for schoolwork, or, for that matter, any work at all (save for household chores that you should be doing all year round).

It’s also the time of year when you go on those inevitable family vacations. You know the kind I mean. They’re the kind of trips, often by car, that contain all the comedy and drama of a National Lampoon movie. And, while the memories invariably frustrate immediately after the event, as the years go by, those memories mellow into nostalgic sepia tones until you wish you could go back there again.

But I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about what you did when it was just you, your friends, and the endless summer day.

Does it still make you wonder? Why was it so hard to get up in the morning for school, yet you bounced out of bed easily during July and August? That’s the difference between work and vacation. In the first instance, you’re required to fulfill a duty assigned to you by someone else. In the second case, you’re doing something you told yourself to do because you wanted to do it.

Sidebar: Let me take a step out of the narrative and comment on entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs notoriously go for years without taking a vacation. Is that because they don’t need to? After all, as entrepreneurs, they wake each day doing something they told themselves to do because they want to do it.

Sunshine filled each day of summer vacation. Even when it rained. Sunshine refers to the aura of the day, not the weather. Running around in the warm rain brought about just as many smiles as running around the bases on a dusty sun baked infield.

I know there was more to it than this, but for me summer vacation was a never-ending game. Not a mind game, but a sports game. It was more physical than mental. Even the strategic thinking didn’t seem to require much effort. The most difficult things to determine were the dimensions of the field and the resulting rule modifications.

My brother and I were very lucky. As teenagers – the peak of physical activity for the typical boy – our neighborhood contained nearly a dozen active boys near enough to our age to fill two teams. We didn’t have enough for baseball, so we’d play a game called “300.” One boy would hit the ball to all the other boys. You’d get so many points for catching a fly, so many points for fielding the ball on one hop, and so many points for picking up a grounder. The first to 300 won the game and earned the right to bat the ball to everyone else for the next game.

Granted, that game didn’t generate the kind of activity you’d imagine from teenage boys, but on very hot sunny days when the humidity melted your body, you wanted to limit your activity to short spurts.

On most days, however, and especially as we got older, we wanted to play something that required non-stop action. These pick-up games weren’t played on the open field of soft grass that hosted our games of 300. No, these games were played on the hard pavement. For good reason.

The first sport was basketball. Before we grew too tired of it (because it was literally non-stop action), we played it a lot. Almost every driveway sported a mounted basketball hoop and backboard. And those driveways were paved. Most were blacktop, and that was hot in the summer. Thanks to the masonry background of my father, ours was concrete.

Concrete stayed cooler in the sun. That was an advantage in the summer. It offered a better pad to play on. In the winter, of course, the failure to heat up quickly posed a disadvantage. As the snow fell, we saw it melt on all our friends’ blacktop driveways. It accumulated on ours, meaning we’d have more shoveling than our peers.

Because we lived on a dead-end street, the street was the other paved surface we played on. If the grass was too dewy (or rainy) wet to play on, we’d use the street for 300. As we got older and could hit the balls farther, this proved too risky for nearby cars and house windows.

The street, on the other hand, presented the perfect “field” on which to play football. Since we usually could muster six guys fairly easily, its width was perfect for a game of three-on-three.

About that width. Girded by concrete curbs, the street offered an ideal clear “out-of-bounds” line without the need for the usual white chalk. Yes, we played by pro rules. That meant we needed two feet in bounds. Believe it or not, it was easy to determine if you were in bounds or not.

From morning ‘til night, we played football. Until summer vacation was over (or, more precisely, until double sessions started for high school football). But football in all its forms is another story to be told another day.

This Commentary is about what we did during summer vacation. This episode reveals what happened as a teenager growing up on Dortmund Circle in Chili. What happened during my pre-teen years growing up on Abbott Parkway in Blasdell will offer a hint at bigger things in smaller bodies.

Stay Tuned.


  1. […] different back then? What did you do when you were a kid? Read this week’s Carosa Commentary “The (Too) Short Season Of Fun in The Sun,” to find out why there’s a difference between a summer “break” and a summer […]

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