I found myself surprised to be enjoying breakfast in the garden. I shouldn’t be; after all, it is August.
For some strange reason, in my mind summer always coincided with school vacation. Growing up, summer was from June until September. I recall carefree days, most of them sunny. New England heat and humidity reign in my memories, except for our first ill-fated attempt at camping in damp, cold forests of New Hampshire, Maine, and New Brunswick. I must have been 12.
School vacation in Germany is very different. First of all, it lasts only six weeks. And, in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion during the annual migration to southern beaches (in vain, I might add), the 6-week period is staggered by state with the starting date altered each year. For example, if a state’s vacation starts in the second week of June, the following year’s vacation will start in the third week, and so on until it moves back to the first slot after several years.
School started last week in my state, which means that summer is basically over for all children and their parents. (Of course, it is not over for me, because every day is a vacation day.) And, France and Italy are still shut down for their annual August work stoppage. Beaches all along the Mediterranean Sea are packed during the day; and hotels, campgrounds, and restaurants are full to overflowing. Weather still reeks of summer.
I always preferred the early vacation blocks for my children. In June, days are longest, fruits and vegetables copious, flowers bloom everywhere, traffic is less…and low season rates are still available in much of France and Italy. In July and August, beaches are overrun, hotels are fully booked (often a year in advance), and prices have climbed to (often) unreasonable levels. Even with a bit of empathy for owners that must cash in on the only business of the year, it is difficult to justify the expense. It was cheaper to fly the family to Florida, enjoy off-season rates, loll on empty stretches of white sand, and please the children (not me) with trips to Disney and shopping malls. And, there was never a chance of temperatures dropping to 10° (50°F), rain longer than a chance thunderstorm, or a mistral hammering your psyche, all of which can happen with that pesky North Atlantic Oscillation messing with European “summer” weather.
In school or out, summer is always a crapshoot. This year kids in this state suffered through a rainy July, only to sit in class and stare at August sunshine outside the window. I doubt that German schools teach this lesson, but one must learn to take the bad with the good…as I did many years ago on that first night of our first camping vacation in a leaky tent somewhere in the woods of New England…
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.