Summertime Blues

It’s Friday. I am on my couch hovered over my computer screen. I am writing test materials with a Shih tzu lounging on my knee. Burke is working on lessons in the armchair. The cat is on the desk mocking the dog with her ability and agility to get to high places. The dog whines.

It’s only when I go to the kitchen that I realize people are outside. Kids whir by on bikes, people in groups walk dogs, the pub next door is slammed with people. It’s 5:30 pm.

I love the summer. As a teacher, I have a slower work season, don’t have to talk to many people, and mostly enjoy the fact that I can wear shorts and sandals. As I live in the Czech Republic, things here slow down to a crawl in the summer months. It’s all but an unspoken understanding that things don’t happen when it’s hot. Or June. Or Friday. Or Thursday because it’s Friday adjacent. But summer in the Czech Republic is the time of year that the Czechs love to dress head to toe in spandex and ride their bikes for the day. They walk and lounge and don’t seem in a terrible rush to get much done.

How I envy them. Though some might not like this tendency to slow down, I think the Czechs have a very healthy outlook when it comes to work-life balance. If you write an email to someone on Friday at 4 pm you will hear from them on Monday at 10ish. In the U.S. it’s totally possible you’d hear from them on Friday at 8 pm or even Saturday at 9 am. Though I’ve always been a bratty stepson who pokes fun at his adoptive country, in this case the Czechs do it right.

When I was a kid, summer in the Langhorne countryside was green and spent without clothing on. There was always activity on the street, the neighbors would gather on the driveway across the street drinking wine or soda. No matter, they were enjoying the time when their kids entertained themselves in the outdoors and mostly out of earshot.

We kids would disappear into the woods as soon as we could every day and come home for dinner (maybe) and covered in poison ivy and ticks and ticks with poison ivy. We were sunburnt and barely noticed it. I was 20 before I realized that people didn’t just turn brown in July automatically. Sometimes we’d spend the day at our community pool. On rainy days, we’d spend the afternoon on the Barr’s deck playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Eddie and I played baseball all summer and when we came home from practice at 5 or 6 pm, the faraway shouts of our friends would let us know where we needed to go to catch up – the woods, someone’s backyard, the Barr’s deck or sandbox. The rules were more lax in summer, and so Eddie and I were allowed to sleep over more often than during the school year. We’d sit in his kitchen eating cereal, the Phillies game and Harry Kalas’ voice a perennial presence.  

I remember being baffled by my parents’ need to work. Where did they go each day? Mr. Schorpp brought us to camp on his way to work and I couldn’t wrap my head around it – who worked in summer? Surely this awful wrong would be righted by the time I got older.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Now, while I hover over my keyboard and hear the far-off shouts of people enjoying their time outside, I can’t help but wish I was eleven again. Or at least Czech. In any event, this blog is done and I see a spandex-clad man paying his check, so I am going next door.   

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