It's the month when the summer nights have a consistent, delicious crispness to them unknown at any other time of the year. It's when the corn is sweet, the plums are purple and pungent, the baseball pennant races are mature, the ocean temperatures are warm. It is the very best month of the year. And we have ruined it.
Not so long ago—well within the memory of half the American population—August was the vacation month. It was a time, much anticipated and much appreciated, of leisure, languor, lassitude and lingering at the beach well into suppertime. Unlike July, it had no holiday disruption, no grocery-store rush.. Hardly anyone got married, and no one went to class. Congress barely met, and then it departed for most of the month, a great relief to them and an even bigger one for the nation. It was an idyll of idleness, a time of pure ease—and now it's gone.
Summer is a lot shorter than it used to be. I began college classes on Sept. 25, 1972. This year freshmen at Rice University reported to campus 43 days earlier than that—on Aug. 12. (Average Houston humidity on that date: 95%.) Classes at the University of Missouri begin Aug. 20. (Average temperature for that period in Columbia, Mo.: 87 degrees) But that's nothing. For generations American children began their school years on the Wednesday after Labor Day, which meant that in some years the first school bell might ring as late as Sept. 9. This year public schools in Shelby County, Tenn., opened five weeks earlier than that, on Aug. 5. (Average daily high temperature in Memphis that date: 91 degrees.)
These calendar changes have a cascading effect. College students return to campus in mid-August, abandoning their positions as life guards and camp counselors. Without students to sit atop the pool towers or to supervise lakeside camp bunks, pools restrict their hours and camps wrap up early. Sleep-away camps used to end routinely around Aug. 24. Now the standard closing date is around Aug. 12.
It's time to reclaim August for the purposes for which it was intended, beyond wiping the peach juice from your cheeks by the lakeside: to tramp in the hills before Labor Day, to enjoy a lobster roll by the shore when the evenings are cool, to walk through a beach town with an ice-cream cone as the skies go gray with night in the last few breaths of summer. August is America at its best. Let's take it back.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 81404.html
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