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Freeze the game 

On a recent summer morning, I stumbled upstairs clutching my cup of coffee. In one room, piles of multicolored dollar bills fanned carelessly across a Monopoly board, with water bottles, cereal bowls and layers of clothing covering every other surface. Each bedroom door upstairs was shut—yes, another grand summer sleepover.

The kitchen was another site-specific point of celebration. Baking supplies were neatly stacked in the sink, while the fridge held a huge tray of blueberry cobbler. Usually my daughter and her friends create layers of Funfetti cake. I could imagine the late-night scene as yawns and the reality of the next day's lifeguarding and babysitting jobs appeared. "Freeze the game," one of them had said, leaving it to be continued. "Hey, we have all summer!"

I've always loved my children's concept of freezing a game. It's so liberating. I think of summer ending now, and I, too, want to freeze the game. Back-to-school season looms like the dramatic dip of an unseen, unkind, manic roller coaster. Summer is all about endless daylight, spontaneous adventures, allowing the moment to take over. Fall is all calendars, schedules and planning. I can do that, sure, but I always wish I had a few more weeks. Give me one more summer soaking so we can have another week of fresh tomatoes. Do I have enough time to drive to town for some healthy frozen yogurt? Let me steal another beach weekend and listen to the vuvuzela chorus on television drown out the waves.

That reminds me of one of the summer's best stories. I was idly watching SportsCenter, a victim of World Cup fever. My wife entered the room and calmly said, "We have a snake situation." In my house, I am on-call for two situations—sewing machine needles stuck in fingers and snakes slithering in the chicken coop. Grabbing the snake stick, I stalked my quarry, but I wasn't decisive enough. I got the snake away from the coop, but he flew right through the snake stick loop and crawled into my truck.

What the hell? Of all places, why did he seek refuge in my truck? I had to get him farther from the chickens and away from the house, and I suppose he just wanted to ride. I climbed in and drove down the road, glancing obsessively at the floorboards. It's worse than texting while driving. I parked the truck down the road and walked back home. I suppose he found his way out.

Summer is an assemblage of unscripted experiences, and there's generally still daylight when it's all over. Or so I'd hoped. I recently put a solar shed light in the outbuilding where the cats like to sleep. I figured I wouldn't need it until October. A few nights ago, I arrived home later than usual, and I had to check on the cats, of course. Usually I just call them. But it was already too dark for that. Where, again, did the summer go?

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