Once upon a time, summers were magical, mystical moments of joy. That last day of school was bigger than Christmas. At such a high altitude of giddiness, if you didn't pace yourself, you could easily pass out when the bell rang.

For nine months, we had visions of floating on rafts and running loose with the neighbors until some parent remembered to call us in. My recurring dreams were of corn on the cob, sleeping late and five hour kickball games. That first day off, we'd slick ourselves up in Crisco oil, steal a pack of Dad's cigarettes and head off to the lake, never to return. Sunshine and boys and ice cream, oh my! The world was our oyster for three glorious months of sweet freedom.

My mindless musing is forced to a halt as the lawn mower I am shackled to sputters out of gas. "Didn't you just cut this yesterday?" I ask myself, as I wipe away sweat and swat at bugs. I wonder if you're allowed to keep goats in the suburbs. As I trip over a mole hill and look across the varmint-ridden land mine that was once my yard, I am reminded of tomorrow's to-do list. It's summer all right, but what happened to the sweet freedom?

Those warm summer nights under starry skies were the perfect setting for young love. That "first kiss" left you floating on clouds. Gently rolling high in the sky, the love cloud could carry you straight through to Labor Day. Learning about the birds and the bees was not a painful lesson. Once you've mastered them, however, you must move on. It's all about ants, flies and ticks now.

Flies have one purpose in life and that is to do what you're doing. When I plop down in my lawn chair with a cold lemonade, they plop down too. I try to beat them to the glass and lose. Too hot and tired to care, I allow us to drink together. Once satisfied, they begin to roll around in my sweat, tickling and taunting. Their game is to irritate you into swatting, so they can laugh when you miss. Determined to win this war, I set my mind over matter.

How can this tiny speck of filth possibly outwit and outlast? Stiff as a rock, I look at him cross-eyed as he sits atop my nose. Down to the toes and two quick circles of my head; this guy is good. Upping his bzzz an octave, he attempts to put me over the edge. I'm agitated but holding my own. Off to the side, he sits tight in a holding pattern for what reason I begin to fear. An ingenious dive-bomb to the middle ear leaves no time to prepare. Lightning-quick, I slap my own head while the victor laps up my spilled drink. "Sweet summer!" I shout in agony.

Another critter intent on ruining my summer is the ant. Our poor dog can no longer eat at his leisure. If his bowl is left unattended, the ants overtake it and begin carrying it off toward their city. I am forced to hold the bowl and persuade the dog that he's hungry right now.

If I'm looking for a bright spot, at least the heatwave ended the Cold War, also known as the Air Conditioner War in some homes. Go ahead and knock it down a notch, honey. It's officially too hot to fuss.

Once you cool down a bit, summer isn't so bad. Maybe I'll buy a watermelon and run through the sprinkler for old times' sake. Oh wait.. That might make the grass grow.

Rachel Krampe welcomes comments at posprince@att.net.

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