Karen Brazas: Celebrating the ‘Dog Days’ of August
August, you say? What’s to celebrate in August?
In January we ring in the New Year and celebrate the legacy of MLK. February brings the hearts and flowers of Valentines Day. And after March turns green for “St. Paddy,” April Fool’s Day and Easter mark the start of spring. We celebrate our moms and our fallen heroes in May and our dads in June. Flags wave on July 4th and again in September on Labor Day. We turn into witches and goblins in October, and we give thanks in November. December is filled with the gifting and celebrating of Christmas and Chanukah.
Which leaves August, neglected and forlorn with nary a holiday in sight.
But, indeed, there is cause for an August celebration! The “Dog Days of Summer” are upon us! Contrary to common belief, the origin of this phrase doesn’t have to do with the popular notion of dogs lying around in the heat. The ancient Romans called the hot humid days of late summer “dog days” because they associated these days with the star Sirius, known as the “Dog Star,” and its position in the heavens. To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the time this star appeared to rise just before the sun.
But is this cause to commemorate August? Perhaps not. But I have only to reflect on my youth in rural Minnesota to find my reasons to celebrate this last month of summer …
The bright sultry mornings, heading down to the little pond by the stockyards to catch pollywogs and salamanders. The sweltering hot afternoons, running through the sprinklers under a cloudless sky. The cool breeze from the fan at the drug store soda fountain, savoring our favorite late afternoon root beer floats.
The warm humid evenings, playing hide and seek until the streetlights blinked on … our signal to head home for a dinner consisting solely of the sweetest corn on the cob and the juiciest watermelon, fresh from our neighbor’s field.
And if we were good, ate all our dinner and finished our chores, a short walk down to Main Street to visit the little street-side popcorn stand for a fresh bag of my favorite salty, buttery treat.
August also signaled the annual back-to-school shopping spree in “the big city” some 50 miles away where we would painstakingly choose our new clothes and school supplies that would last us the entire year.
And then the grand finale of the month … the hot August night when half the town gathered around the murky little lake at Sportsmen’s Park, toting hotdogs and marshmallows to roast on the long sticks we kids would retrieve from the surrounding woods. Never mind the smoke from the bonfires or the mosquitoes, so thick they seemed to fly in formation! It was time to officially celebrate the end of summer.
Yes, those August days and August nights have left an indelible mark on my childhood. They provide me with plenty of reasons to celebrate a month with no official holiday but, nevertheless, a month filled with sweet memories.
Karen Brazas lives in Nevada City.
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