August is a bittersweet month. Summer, by this time, is in advanced middle age. The neatly trimmed lawns of spring and early summer have taken on a slovenly look, their care takers tired out by too many trimmings and too many times following the lawn mower in endless circles. It is a joy to be out of doors in the spring, reveling in the sunny warmth so long denied by winter. But by August, that warmth has turned mean and the first concern is to get inside to the delicious cool of an air conditioned house. August, like January, tends to trap people indoors.
Growing up on a lake in northern Indiana, it was slightly different. The warm days were a boon. The lake, which always beckoned, was irresistible in August. The water was warm and endless hours could be spent swimming, water skiing, sailing and fishing. It was almost idyllic as local kids and summer kids got together on the water. It was a mixed group and there was some flirting and some relaxed dating, but nothing was really serious because friendships formed over the summer would soon be severed as the summer people returned to homes and jobs and schools in Ft. Wayne and Toledo and Cleveland. Letters were exchanged on occasion, but it was correspondence with a stranger. The experiences of a student in a rural school could never compare with those of a student in an urban school. Some friendships would never be renewed. You knew this as you watched the approach of September. Labor Day ended the idyll. As the day progressed, the lake got more silent as boats, taken for a final run, were pulled from the water. By late afternoon, the silence was nearly complete as the doors of cottage after cottage were closed and locked against the coming winter. The last guests had left the hotel and the owners and neighbors sat over coffee at the table in the large kitchen and talked of things getting back to normal.
I still watch the approach of Labor Day with the same reluctance. There is something final about Labor Day. Our minds switch from a summer to a fall mode in the course of a day. We wake up to summer but go to bed to fall. It is a switch helped by the rapid shortening of the days and the growing length of the afternoon shadows. We too sit around the kitchen table and talk of things getting back to normal.