Each year, my summer starts with the same scenario: I check off must-read books from summer-reading lists and dust off the old hammock and hook it up again.
What a dreamer I am. Who has time for summer reading with all that summer feeding to attend to? I'm not just speaking of stoking up my own kids, who usually come home for the summer and work – and eat – out of this house.
In the good old summertime, good old friends and relatives out of our past and often from out of state are on the road, and they come out of their way to see us. "You're so close to Route 91, we thought we'd just stop by with the kids to say hello," which usually has a way of turning into a long, lingering goodbye. Thus does my reading turn into feeding, and my hammock hangs limp without me.
In truth, when it comes to summer consumption, it's our young people's friends who take the cake – and everything else edible in sight. During open-season summer, school and camp friends, roommates, and ex-roommates all seem to hit the open road in search of an open door: ours.
They come from states about whose geography I'm hazy (and, indeed, some of them never knew that New England, where we live, was on the map).
They come with backpacks, sleeping bags – and appetites. They're on the move between classes, between jobs, between loves. They're seeing the country, finding themselves, finding us.
Sure, these young people are interesting, fun to be with, and philosophers all – but, boy, can they eat! My summer books collect dust, and my hammock is not all it's hooked up to be.
Gershwin celebrated summer as a time when "the livin' is easy." Not so. But it's not just summer feedings that keep me from dreamed-of summer readings; there's always summer weeding, too. The sizable presence and proximity of our garden makes it downright uncomfortable for me to be a book-bound hammock swinger in full view of vegetables that always seem to need picking and weeds that ever need plucking.
Look, who needs a book, I usually tell myself when I don't end up upended in my hammock as hoped, and the guest-filled, garden-tilled summer slips away from me.
Not only does my summer reading not get off the ground, but neither do my feet very often. And I have news for summer-reading book-listers like those who follow The New York Times's Summer Reading section: Winter is a much cozier time to curl up with a book. Potential overnight visitors stay home, snowed in; the garden is dormant, snowed under; and I, for one, am much more ready for a warm relationship with a book.
Meanwhile, I do confess to having one steady summer-reading companion that I can literally count on: "The Cookbook That Counts," whose recipes are designed for crowds of 10, 20, 30, and more. Now that's summer reading worth its salt.