It’s Official . . .

yellow glass E&JIt’s official. Summer is over.

What? Does that not come as a news flash to you?

I know we’ve all been talking about fall and, really, the signs are everywhere here in upstate New York. Even the calendar says, unequivocally, that autumn began three weeks ago.

But emotionally, for me, summer ended a couple of days ago, when my mother and her husband (E & J) closed camp and left for Florida. Like all the other snowbirds, they trade winter for an endless summer.

I wrote earlier about “opening camp,” and how it looms large in North Country culture. “Closing camp” is equally fraught with meaning.

E & J spend the summers here, in a seasonal “camp” just 250 steps down the road from us.

Just yesterday (or so it seems!), I went down to E & J’s little cottage and threw open the doors and windows, to allow spring to blow through and chase out the winter chill. My husband turned the water back on and mowed the lawn. The rhododendrons out front burst into bloom, to say, “Welcome back!”

E & J arrived and summer had begun.

Summer means garage sales, just my mom and me, driving the familiar back roads and yakking. Summer means the four of us, gathering at water’s edge in the evening for cocktails and a campfire, with my husband’s guitar providing a well-loved soundtrack. Summer means endless hands of pinochle, played with idiosyncratic rules and varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Summer at camp has meant so much to us over the years. My husband and I were married during a summer at camp, almost 25 years ago. My mother and her husband were married during a summer at camp, 3 years ago. Small children have learned to build s’mores and sing along during summers at camp. Crafts have been taken up, explored, and abandoned at camp. Family members and friends have gathered and partaken in the camp rituals of concerts on the seawall, bike rides to the soft ice cream stand, and day trips to Lake Placid.

The summers at camp are almost a cliché. But not quite, because they’re ours and they never lose their originality or become commonplace when we’re lucky enough to live them.

E & J are somewhere on the road right now, heading to the year-round summer they prefer, in Florida.

During winter, they trade wild heron and osprey flying against a twilight sky for a heron who shows up at their house daily, for hot-dog handouts. They trade Saturday evening campfires and wine in big yellow plastic goblets for Saturday morning coffee hour at the clubhouse. They trade kayaking into the long grass at the end of the bay for barefoot walks on the beach in January.

My husband and I are firmly ensconced, now that summer is over, in our autumn home, heading for winter.

We trade the bonhomie of family time for the cozy solitude of couple time. We trade a view of rippling waves and heeling sailboats for wind-sculpted snow drifts. We trade the grill for the slow cooker, the campfire for the fireplace, summer for winter.

We’ve made very different decisions for the part of the year that is Not Summer At Camp. We’re happy, all of us, with our choices and the trade offs.

But there’s one thing we agree on—we wouldn’t trade next summer, together at camp, for anything! Summer has ended. Long live summer!


How about you? Is there a moment when you know that summer is officially over?

39 thoughts on “It’s Official . . .

  1. All that happiness in the summer, and already for years, for generations. that will never, ever become cliche! And now the coziness, reflectiveness of winter on your doorstep. In a way, I miss that now we exchanged our forest home in Canada or suburban life in the milder climate of Cincinnati. Social life just continuous here now, nice, very nice…but I so totally recognize your story…

  2. Another beautifully penned piece [penned? yikes – really, what’s that mean?] I remember when camp opened so clearly, and here you are closing it up already – how fast time goes by! How blessed you are to enjoy two homes and two contrasting but equally wonderful lifestyles. It sounds just heavenly to me. I hope your winter will contain many hours of companionable fire-side chats with warm drinks and warm friends and even some guitar music now and again. Can’t wait to see what you might produce on all those looms as well …….

    • Companionable is the perfect way to describe our winters! I actually do look forward to that time of year but, then, I seem to look forward to all the seasons as they come–they bring different pleasures. One thing that’s fun about blogging is that, while I deal with winter, I get to enjoy your summer! So don’t forget to post about your weather sometimes–I’m living vicariously!

  3. What a wonderful division of the seasons. My parents used to come to New Zealand for our Christchurch summer and then return to Australia for their warm ‘winter’. It was a good arrangement. Now they are no longer able to travel perhaps I should spend the winter over there…perhaps! But, like you, I feel happier staying in one place. I am not sure that I do have a moment when I know that summer is officially over but it seems to happen round about my birthday in March.

    • One of the things that makes me really appreciate our summer traditions is that I am all too aware that it won’t last forever. It’s important to savor every minute. Is spring progressing nicely where you are?

      • Spring has been brilliant these past few days. Better temperatures and weather than we get in summer! I am madly spring cleaning…..getting blankets and bedcovers washed and aired. What a way to waste a beautiful day!!!!

          • It does feel good to have everything clean but I still have a way to go…..I tried to be clever and wash a pillow in the washing machine. That didn’t work out well. I don’t usually have a problem with pillow washing; this was just a recalcitrant pillow.

  4. I love the idea of summer camp.. which we have been doing here with the Girl guides (is always packed with many activities) and i guess autumn and winter is usually the months ahead for re-charging.. 😉 time to relax and enjoy the coolness int he air.

  5. Summer camp seems a very American institution, and one I think many of us this side of the pond rather envy. You certainly give it a good sales pitch! As to summer…. well, I think that officially ended for me the day before yesterday, with the first frost.

  6. Beautifully crafted and written, your post transported me from this wet October day on Dartmoor and gave me a delightful taste of a lifestyle which I have never experienced.
    We have been experiencing an Indian summer here in the U.K, a time where sunny days and high temperatures have stayed high enough to delay all thoughts of Autumn. And even though it is wet for a few days now, the temperatures are rising again at the end of the week.I have baby salad leaves germinated in the greenhouse and am still preserving Autumn fruits. I think by now my whole house smells of chutney!
    Thank you for sharing tales of the fun you share with your Mum and her partner. It makes me happy to hear it!

    • You’re being very productive! I can almost smell your chutney, from the description. Your weather sounds a lot like ours–it is so unpredictable this time of year. we had pouring rain a few days ago and then, bingo, the most spectacular rainbow! I have a lot of work to do outdoors before I can say I’m ready for winter! And, yes, I love the stories of the times we share with E & J!

    • You had a pretty wonderful summer, as I recall! I can see how hard it would be to let it go. The nice thing is that we know summer will come again and we can get back to that slice of heaven!

  7. Summer ends when the furnace is really NEEDED at the RV!!! 2 more weekends then it comes home to be put to bed for the upcoming “season of white”. Your writing totally drew me in and I felt I had actually joined you!!! Lovely! After the 1st of the year, we will be doing some “scouting” for a spot to “continue our endless summer”. I’m not sure if I’m totally ready to migrate from my wonderful ‘quilty’ nest, but DH says “it’s time” for him. Sigh. I’ve always said that I love life’s new chapters but this one feels like it’s “looming” rather than pleasantly opening. Time will tell……………………..

    • I think I’d have the same mixed feelings as you do, about going south for the winter. I love visiting my mother and friends in Florida for a couple of weeks but have never seen myself spending half my year there. Lucky for me, my husband is in complete agreement! I suspect that, once you find the right place, you’ll be very happy there!

      • I’m sure you’re right. But I’m such a “nester”…LOL! It’s the cold/snow that has finally gotten to DH, so, we’ll see ………………………………..I/we know that Florida would not be our “plopping” spot, though.

  8. Ohhh, summer camp, sounds perfect and a true slice of heaven!

    Oddly the second Labor Day hits the weather changes here, but I refuse to buy into autumn until the official start day, three weeks into September-I stand my ground! It’s clearly autumn now, the air is cool, we even have had snow flurries (gasp) and the trees are turning. I can only wish this lasted so much longer.

    • What I think of as “real fall” doesn’t ever last long enough here either. Summer weather lingers, winter weather always hits too soon, and wonderful autumn gets squeezed out. I’m trying to savor it!

  9. How I would love an endless summer, and those garage sales sound like fun. When I need to wear thermo socks, that’s when I realise summers over 😦 I hate autumn and winter, but having those too, make spring and summer so much more fun!

  10. What a nice story you’ve shared with us! I know people who do what E & J do – trade winters in the Northeast for endless summers in Florida. It sounds like there is a long tradition and a lot of fun in these summer at camp days. I know summer is gone when the stone fruit disappears from the farmers’ market. This year, they disappeared in the second week of September, which seems like a lifetime ago. I’m well settled into fall now, and dreading winter already. Perhaps I should escape to Florida in November. 🙂

    • The problem (one of them anyway) with Florida is that EVERYBODY wants to be there! It’s being loved to death–so crowded, so busy, so overwhelmed. I like a couple of weeks there, when the going gets really rough in the Northeast, and then I’m happy to come home to my winter cocoon.

  11. As long as my pole beans are still growing (and they are), it’s still summer.

    What a beautifully written story about camp, your mother and summer.

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