Pity party prescription

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

I have never really gotten over the fact that adults are expected to work in July.

It's a hangover from childhood days, when July was the one month you could rely on to be free of obligations. June was marred by final exams, and August was polluted by back-to-school ads that reminded you how quickly the summer was ending.

But July? Totally unencumbered by alarm clocks, homework or looming school years. It was as if someone arranged for an entire month of Saturdays.

Adults would try to ruin it by saying that once the Fourth of July had come and gone, summer was virtually over.

That was my first inkling that adults might be dumb. Did no one teach them math? On the 5th of July, a kid was still looking at 26 days of glorious freedom in that month alone.

Now I understand their motivation: jealousy. They were stuck in the office while kids enjoyed the summer. They were bitter, poor things.

I try not to be bitter now, but it's difficult. All a guy in business attire has to do is ride by a swimming pool on a weekday afternoon to suddenly be hit by a pang of intense jealousy.

Oh, adults try to fight it by wearing short sleeves and open-toed shoes and eating al-fresco, but those are poor substitutes for the childhood Julys that we really need.

I've thought about spritzing myself with a bottle of chlorinated water when the yearning for a midday pool break becomes overwhelming, but I don't know how that would go over in the office.

The principle, however, is sound: If you can't have a free July, at least have some sensory experiences that remind you of it. It will lift your mood, the way a little sunlight helps in midwinter. Here's my prescription:

• Pick blackberries. To me, they taste like summer, more so than tomatoes or sweet corn or any of those other foods we associate with the season. I didn't grow up on a farm and therefore had limited harvesting experiences. The ones that stand out most vividly are July berry-picking adventures with their thorny menace and sweet reward.

• Play ball. I mean baseball or softball or, best of all, Wiffle ball in the backyard. Start around 7:30 p.m., when it's beginning to cool off, and keep going until it's too dark to see. Do not try to substitute some other activity, such as Frisbee-tossing or croquet. Those are adult diversions, but the point here is to replicate summer childhoods, which were made all the more exhilarating by the risk of striking out with men on base.

• Sit on a front porch. If you don't have one, find somebody who does. A back porch won't do. It's too peaceful. You need the movement of traffic and pedestrians to contrast against your utter lack of motion. It heightens the relaxation effect of July.

Repeat until you start feeling like a kid in July again.