In a cyberspace age, it's harder to 'honor August' than it once was [Commentary]

I am working on a project with a woman who spends summers in Wyoming. For the last two months, we have had Tuesday morning phone chats. A lot can be organized via long distance and email.

In mid-July, I told her that I would be away the last Tuesday in July, but I could resume the calls the first week of August. We set dates, then she paused and said, "We have to remember to honor August."

I thought for a moment about what she might mean, then instantly agreed and scrapped our calls this month.

Because of cyberspace, it is not as easy to "honor August" as it once was. During my childhood, we were at the beach for three months and did not return until mid-September. We "honored August" all summer. There was not even a phone at the house, but a pay phone several blocks away at the Sip 'N Snack ice cream parlor. 

The house was quiet, very quiet. No telephone. No television. In 2013, it's hard to imagine not having a screen of any sorts, but we did not. I do not even remember my grandfather listening to baseball games on the radio, but he must have. It was his great pleasure.

I don't remember going to the movie theater at the beach. There was one, but I never remember being inside. The toy store, the concert hall and the kiddie rides, yes, but not the movies. We walked to the beach, played in the ocean, ate a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches in a boardwalk sandwich shop with white wood booths or walked home, played dolls, board or card games and read.

I had my first library card there. First, my grandmother or mother read to me, then I learned to read. I read my first sign on the way back to the beach house from the rides in Atlantic City.

"What is 'bar?'" I asked a car of tee-totaling adults. I knew the 'bar' part, because I could spell my friend Barbara's name. It was years before I knew the word "irony." 

It was quiet at the beach but not silent. In those days we were six: two grandparents, two parents, two children. One in each generation was a big talker. That was enough noise for our grandmother, who relished peace and quiet. When I think of "honoring August," I think of the quiet at that house she rented for us each year.

Once we were old enough to travel, my family hit the road in August. We drove to New Hampshire once and to Canada twice. After checking our seaworthiness on a cruise to Bermuda, we were deemed ready to travel to Europe during August. 

Today, I do not travel so far afield. My husband does not enjoy traveling, but I have been away a lot this August: to Long Island, Virginia and Maine. All trips were filled with family and friends who feel like family. On trains and planes, I read. I discovered new plants, new restaurants, new music and movies. Things are not as stationary in August for me as they once were. But as always, I have taken lots of pictures. Besides capturing moments with people, I have photographed gardens for my Internet blog.

At home, we have honored this August by finishing a few home projects. Our favorite painter has spent most of the month here. The roofer has been here. Garden helpers and I have continued editing the garden. In newly cleared space, I plan to add a few new plants in September. I don't know what exactly, but I have a few more August days to browse gardens and nurseries, to read books and to sit quietly and contemplate the garden. 

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