As a college teacher who gets summers “off,” I can assure you that summer has rarely felt like a vacation on my trek to tenure. I am usually so wiped out by the time Memorial Day weekend rolls around, all I want to do is sleep and then sleep some more.
For the most part, my summers are spent writing, reading, researching, and preparing new courses. I am too exhausted from the schoolyear to jump right into that and too working-class-ethical to just sit around, do nothing, and nap all day. So to kick-off my days of refusing to think but desperately needing to feel productive, I wash the front of my house, all the windows and the sidewalks… with a superduper powerwasher which provides some of the most fun water-sport activities imaginable. I also fertilize my flowerbeds/container garden and I spray like a fiend for mosquitos (yes, it is an awful practice but I cannot tolerate them sucking up my blood the way that they do.) I must confess: I am not a very good powerwasher but I see no reason for that to stop me. I warn my neighbors beforehand because, as NYC rowhouse dwellers, I end up washing their houses too, though not by design. Like I said, I am not a very good powerwasher. As my neighborhood, along with all neighborhoods in Brooklyn, have become more and more gentrified, I have noticed many more expensive cars on my block. I have also noticed that these folk tend to move their cars away as soon as I come out with my 100 feet of hose (we park on the street in my neighborhood; there are no garages). I don’t intentionally wash the expensive cars on the street because, hey, that would just be rude, but, wellllll, they do get a little wet and I do not feel bad about that. It is public space and I am very public with the powerwasher. I put on my big, rubber, rain boots that come to my knees and just get to it. If my mother is being particularly challenging with too many directives and advice about my process since she lives with me now and so gets all of her windows washed too, I will put on a big, bright rain parka with a hood (and goggles if I have some). I look so ridiculous that my mother refuses to be seen standing next to me with all the car traffic that passes by. My peace and quiet are then quickly restored. By the time I am done with all that powerwashing and then putting all of the tools and costume away again, I am tired as hell. This physical labor allows me to justify the one thing that kicks off my summer: sleeping like a baby. I have always loved the photo above of the McGhee sextuplets— Rozonno Jr., Isaac, Josiah, Elijah, Madison and Olivia— who are so deep asleep that it is nothing short of inspiring (thank you to the Ohio couple and proud Mom and Dad, Mia and Rozonno McGhee, for truly loving and showing us these glorious babies.) The baby sleeping on the father’s head most closely approximates what my summer sleep looks like right now.
After my powerwashing, I wake up the next day and, of course, need a new justification to tire myself out again so that I can go back to sleep…. it will be THE BACKYARD!! There will come a time when I can no longer escape the work that I need to do this summer. But in the interim, I am avoiding it… with the cleanest, superwashed house imaginable! I wish deep rest and relaxation to every teacher who can relate to what I am saying here.