On the eve of vacation


The summer vay-cay is around the corner, and I won’t be putting a thing into this space until it’s over. It’s been a great summer so far, and I’m looking forward to closing it out with a flourish.

The picture above is from a summer trip two years ago, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I’m sure that many images will be captured from this trip, as well.

Nothing compares to summer. It’s the time-marking posts of our lives, and the moments we’ll remember for as long as we’re able to. I’m looking forward to seeing what turns up this year.

Life’s too short to be sorry

Wednesday morning, Wellfleet, Mass. Summer vacation stretches endlessly before me, even if I know that’s not the case. Summer is never endless, except in a few places that I wouldn’t want to live. And vacation, well, if it were endless I could never afford to take one. But it sure felt that way earlier this morning.

I drove to the beach–a pond beach, if anyone really wants to know–and parked under a shady tree. The afternoon was supposed to be hot, and anything that can be done to plan for it is a good thing. I crossed the street, careful to avoid the cyclists that were buzzing through the streets, and walked down a staircase toward the water.

At the bottom of the staircase, there was a narrow strip of sand maybe four feet wide. There were two blankets placed on the sand, one of which was unoccupied and one which was in use by a skinny boy of about nine or ten. He saw I was coming, got up and said “I’m sorry.” I wasn’t really in a hurry, and I could have walked around him without any trouble at all. In fact, that was just as I was planning to do.

I saw something of myself in this kid, even though I have no idea of who he was and what his story is. But I was once a kid who felt like everything was bad and I was doing something wrong. In the intervening years, I have learned that it’s no way to live.

And so I looked at the kid, gave him a not-to-worry smile, and said “Life’s too short to be sorry.” And I meant it, too. From the time I was his age, until this morning’s walk toward the pond beach, I’ve seen plenty of examples to support that premise. And whether or not this kid really felt bad, he had no reason to do that, and I wanted him to know this.

Was I saying that there’s never any reason for remorse? Not at all. When other people are hurt by our actions, then some genuine remorse is called for. But from my perspective, the sort of reflexive apology that this young kid offered to me this morning has no real meaning.

He smiled back at me as I was walking past, and that was the end of our encounter. Whether he ever thinks about it again, I can’t say. But as for me, and the experiences I’ve gained over the past decades of living, I wish someone would have pointed out how short life is. And how important it is to feel good about yourself while you’re here.

The truth is that you can spend as much of your life as you want to feeling bad about yourself and what you’re doing on this earth. Or, you can take a different approach altogether. You’re in your little part of the world, and I’m in mine. There’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, most likely, and so offering up empty words like “I’m sorry” don’t really help either of us out very much.

I have come to the reasoned position that most apologies, whether sincere or not, are just a waste of breath. What’s worse, they cheapen the words for those times when they truly are called for.

If ever I write a book, which is about as likely as me swallowing this computer keyboard whole, I want it to have the same name as this post. Because I apologized to everyone and everyone, whether I needed to or not, for several decades over the course of my life. And not one of these apologies ever changed a thing.

So say whatever you’re going to say, young man on a beach in Cape Cod, but don’t say that you’re sorry. I don’t need to hear it, and you don’t need to say it. And for anyone else who may ever come upon this, please do likewise. We’ll both be better off for it.

It was a big year for me

School has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s the last week of the school year for my two daughters, and the structure that has shaped our lives since last fall is about to take a hiatus. A long summer break is in store, and the new posts on this blog will slow to a trickle, if they don’t grind to a complete halt. But I’ll come back to this one day in the future.

I was on my way out of a year-end dance recital recently when I spotted a penny in the parking lot. As is my custom, I picked it up and looked at the date. It was 1973, which I remember bits and pieces of, at best. But my life changed for the better in that year, and school was the reason why. I started kindergarten that year, and life was never again the same for me.

Before I turned five, life consisted of me, my brother, my sister, my mom and dad, and my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In other words, nobody that I wasn’t related to by blood or marriage. But the day that I started morning kindergarten, I learned there were other kids out there, and they were fun to be around, too. I had never heard the word “socialization” before, but that’s what was going on. And I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I stumbled upon a picture of myself from 1973 a  few years ago, and the arrival of Facebook has afforded me an opportunity to share this image with whoever wants to see it. I have this sort of mischievous look in my eyes, like I think I’m getting away with something. And every pair of ugly plaid pants that I wore back then probably had at least one knee patched up. And the shoes? The less I say about them, the better.

A lot changed for me in the year that the recently-found penny was shiny and new. And as my children make their own way through school, I hope they’ll look back on this time as fondly as I do on my own youth.

There’s a Cowboy in the Jungle

Today was the first day of school for my two kids. We had a great summer, from the first weekend in New York City to the last week in South Dakota. It didn’t matter where we were or what we did, it was all good in the summertime.

Having summers off–while they no longer serve the purpose of letting kids help out with the farm chores–sure are a good thing for kids, teachers, and parents. But they don’t make much sense academically, and year-round schools may happen one day in the future. But for now, we enjoyed last summer for all it was worth.

But like all good things, it couldn’t last for very long. And so now school is back in session, and the daily routine that we’re all so used to by now has returned. And there is a comfort in that, knowing that until next summer comes around, the structure of the school day will be there to fill up the intervening weeks and months.

Today was the first of these “back to school” days that didn’t involve my older daughter’s school of the past seven years. She wanted to go to a junior high school, and she worked hard enough to make it happen. I’m always proud of my children, but today was extra special, since it was the start of a new chapter in her academic career.

A year ago, when she started sixth grade at her old school, I honestly though we had three more years there, until 8th grade graduation rolled around. But, as with many other things in life, fate intervened. The particulars of how this came to pass don’t really matter anymore. The bottom line is that nothing lasts forever, and things rarely work out the way you expect them to.

This post is titled after an old Jimmy Buffett song about the importance of rolling with the punches, and making the best of whatever comes along in life. And I haven’t come across any of his songs that don’t contain at least some kernel of truth in them. He’s our modern-day oracle, as near as I can tell.

So my hat is off to my daughters, and to all kids and parents, as they either chart a new course or return to their old haunts for another year. They won’t be the same kids in May or June that they are today, and the key is to accept that and enjoy the ride for as long as we can.