At 3:35 p.m. on the last day of school, the youngest danced her way into the house, tossed her lunch box on the kitchen counter and declared the start of summer.
Farmer's Almanac aficionados know different. June 21 marks the official commencement. But when you're 13 years old, the summer season is always measured in the days between the end and the start of the school year.
She may be off a bit, but my Massachusetts friends are a week and a half ahead of her, having marked the start of the dog days on Memorial Day with an initial trek to "the cape," the first backyard cook-out or the planting of the annual vegetable garden.
Here in Florida, the state of my own garden is a clear indication that summer is well on its way, as I watch our shriveling tomato plants' demise, along with my recollection of the cooler temps that had me blanketing the once tender seedlings to stave off a winter frost.
I know it too because the migrating birds have moved on along with our northern human guests who know better than to visit after the calendar turns to June.
Now comes the time for our summer hibernation, when Florida residents tend to stay indoors to escape the burning sun and humid air and marvel about how air-conditioning is an awesome invention.
At least that's my take.
Like many others, we won't be escaping north to cooler climes like New England, the mountains of western North Carolina or anywhere else this summer. The family vacation is off as we turn our attention to things like building that six-month emergency cash reserve and purchasing a safe and trustworthy car for the college-bound middle child who will be commuting from home because in this economy, that, too, is the frugal thing to do.
Instead, we bought the kids Florida resident passes to a local theme park so they can while away some summer days riding roller coasters.
The youngest is fine with that and content, at the moment, to bask in the laziness that summer brings a 13-year-old. Playing Rock Band, waiting for the next NetFlix pick to arrive in the mail, reading Manga books, staying up way later than her parents, and sleeping in are all high on the agenda for her and the older sister, too, who should be working a summer job but isn't because in this economy, there aren't any to be had.
Lucky them, I think as I kiss their sleepy heads in the morn and head off to work recalling my own sleepy summer youth: The daylong bike rides to the ocean where the ice cream truck was a forever fixture and you never had to call your mom because it just wasn't necessary. The time spent at "Y" camp as a kid and later on as a teen, making a whole $30 a week working as a counselor. The family camping ventures to the state forest that came complete with s'mores and wrinkly pancakes served up on a Coleman kerosene stove. Kick the can and capture the flag played in the neighborhood woods where you could raid the low-lying blueberry bushes for a snack as long as you got there before the birds. Big Dipper searching and night crawler hunting followed by a morning fishing trip to the local pond, where my younger brother always ate the white bread we brought for extra bait.
And sometimes just sleeping late into the day, lulled by the constant whirring of an old electric window fan and a mother's gentle goodbye kiss.
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 869-6251.