Summer: warmest season of the year, between spring and autumn. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is usually defined as the period between the summer solstice (year’s longest day), June 21 or 22, and the autumnal equinox (day and night equal in length). Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online
My very own definition of summer has varied over the years somewhere in between the one mentioned above and a personally constructed one based NOT on geographical and climatic conditions; the beginning of summer was almost always undoubtedly marked by the arrival at the port of Piraeus. The day when the luggage was loaded onto the car while my dad was complaining about how heavy they were, asking repeatedly if we needed every single thing that was in the bags. The day when we’d get into the car with a mixture of anticipation and sleepiness; it seems like our parents always preferred the early departures which meant we usually had to be on the road well before 7 to avoid the hordes of Athenians that were escaping to the islands as we were about to do.
In the car, us kids on the back seat with our travel bags packed with magazines, books, walkmans or discmans (depending on the year), would listen to our mum talking to herself ‘Did I get the tickets?’ while she would frantically go through her purse only to find them a minute later. Our dad would be on the phone calling to see if the rest of the pack was at the port and we’d shout ‘hellos’ to our friends who were in different cars stuck in traffic in some other part of the city.
The excitement was always indescribable when we’d finally meet outside the ship anxiously waiting to get on it and wave goodbye to the port which was always busy as hell. That used to be the first day of summer for me, when I would hear the anchor being rolled up and I would see the port becoming all the more distant and everyone would run off to the ship’s balconies to watch while our hometown got smaller and smaller and all we could see was the white trail the ship left on its path. There, getting a whiff of the sea which had salted every inch of the banisters, my hair all tangled up in the breeze, summer was finally something more than the warm season, it was my favourite time of the year.
2 or 3 weeks later – depending on the family’s finances that year – I would get out on the balcony reluctantly as the white trail the ship left behind would mean we were heading back home, to the summer heat in the city, to the mundane reality of school and other obligations. Every year I’d be hit by an unfathomable melancholy while looking at the sea from the same balcony that had brought me such enthusiasm only a few weeks ago. The summer was over even if it was still mid-August. For me, it was over. Not the warmest season of the year, but that escape from home to exciting new worlds that existed outside our city, in small villages and towns on the islands I was visiting for the first time. I had to go back to the year’s routine, in the linear reality of school where things resembled ‘Groundhog Day‘ a bit.
This year, the melancholy hit me on the plane. It was the exact same feeling almost like having a deja vu of my childhood and adolescence but with no wind to mess up my hair and not the salty texture of the sea breeze in my mouth. I was sitting in my seat looking outside the window at the blue sea that I was leaving behind to go back to the year’s routine, not a carefree student any more but a full-fledged wage-earning adult.
Oh crap, how it sucks being a grown-up. Especially when the summer is over.