Old Ladies Are Smart!

Sage advice from our elders: Don't let summer end too soon

Old ladies are smart. Or maybe just wise, which doesn’t always mean smart as much as it does experienced. Case in point: I’ve been thinking about the end of summer. With Labor Day behind us, I’ve been reflecting on how different this summer was from others. My daughter, a teenager with lots of energy and a set of wheels, was almost never around but that wasn’t always the case. We’re lucky enough to spend summers at the shore and, before my daughter became a field hockey freak, summers stretched from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After the field hockey disease set in, things changed. Summers were fractured and broken up by mandatory athletic camps and pre-season. Pre-season is that magnificent end of summer that is wrenched from the vacationing child and his or her parents all so the coach can be assured that his or her team will be in top conditioning at the start of the season. I’m sure there are Olympic Committee scouts stationed at every high school on the Main Line. [SIGNUP]

While complaining about pre-season with my mom one day, I marveled at how glorious the summers spent on Long Beach Island were, when I was growing up, without the insanity of pre-season. “Oh you had pre-season all right,” Mom offered.

“What? What do you mean? We never went home early for pre-season. What are you talking about?” Well, seems Mom decided that her children were not going to participate. She and my father sacrificed much to swing a summer home and, by God, we were going to use it every possible day. She informed the various coaches (we are a large brood) that her children would not be participating in pre-season and, more importantly, they would be available after the first day of school where she expected them to be warmly welcomed back into the athletic fold. None of this was ever discussed with us, and the coaches never argued. A couple of us were pretty good athletes; those coaches were willing to wait. Others were not so good; those coaches put up with the mom policy out of solidarity with the aforementioned coaches.

Now, how’s that for one smart old broad? Who knew in this insane world of high school athletic fanaticism that all you had to do was say no? Kind of gets you to thinking … what if a whole bunch of moms just said no? What is the field hockey Cruella going to do then, huh?

Before the field hockey plague upon my summer, there was the dreaded “summer packet.” That huge packet of math and reading that each child is expected to complete before the start of school under penalty of swirling locusts and itchy rashes, well, severe reprimand anyway. Fear drove each child to whittle away at the damn thing until the week before school when, realizing they’ve got 38 pages to go, crunch time is on. Math and English consumed all those magnificent days of summer’s end. I remember hanging at the pool, after one school year ended, with several other moms from my daughter’s class when we all started whining about the size of that year’s packet. “Doesn’t bother me,” spoke up one mom named Karen. “My daughter doesn’t do it.”

What? Excuse me? Your daughter doesn’t do the packet?

“Nope. She spends the summer with my mother in South Carolina, and Mamma says that packet is ridiculous and that my baby should be enjoying her summer. She won’t let her touch it. I don’t even send it anymore. Just throw it away.”

I stared at her as if she’d grown another head. Then the other moms and I looked at each other as if we’d been the butt of some stupid joke. All you had to do was say no?

Who knew? My mom and Karen’s mom knew, that’s who. Two smart old ladies.