It seems too hot to be considering the end of summer, but the theme for August is officially “Summer’s End”, so consider we will. I can remember when August was smack in the middle of summer as defined by summer = summer vacation = no school. You still had plenty of pool time left, trips to visit grandparents to make and lots of empty days left to fill. Now, school starts by the second week of August, so if you haven’t done it by now, and you have or work with children, you are out of luck. You blinked and missed it. Summer has come to its end and August is just the really hot, early part of fall. I don’t like this new system. I want a full month left to loaf and sweat over my dying flowerbed. I want bands to keep playing in the park on Tuesday nights, another fireworks holiday would be nice and maybe a watermelon festival or two. I love watermelon. Oh well, times change and summers end, don’t they.
This brings to mind one summer spent during early spring that seemed to last forever. How is that possible? Through a good book, anything is possible. I remember reading Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine while a student at Power Elementary School in Jackson, Ms. This book may have been the first to completely absorb and transport me. By the time I finished reading it, I had lived summer so thoroughly that I fully expected fall to begin at any moment. For days afterward, I would catch myself thinking it was too hot for fall. It was April. I was confused, but hooked on the experience of a good read that you live so completely, you don’t want it to end.
Dandelion Wine takes place in the summer of 1928 in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois. This isn’t a southern place, but it represents small-town America and the simple pleasures found there, and the south is full of towns like this. The title refers to wine made with dandelion petals and serves as a metaphor for saving all of summer in a bottle.
Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy loosely patterned after Bradbury, has just realized that he is alive, that the right pair of shoes can carry you like the wind, that old people were never children and that things change. Overcome by the truth of death and his own twelve-year old mortality, Douglas drifts away in an August fever, only to be revived by Winter’s cold air. Douglas finds his wonder at summer and life restored. A beautiful story of the wonders of everyday, imagination and our own childhoods spent running like the wind.
After 30 years it still lingers with me, like the hint of sweetness from a honeysuckle flower. I can taste it now.
– Mary Prater