To most Americans the unofficial commencement of summer is Memorial Day.  For me, though, summer always began when you could go outside and play after dinner. I’ll stand by that definition.

I don’t play anymore — outdoors, anyway. Oh, I walk here and there — sometimes even recreationally. But play? Did you SEE my last time on a softball diamond? (Ed. Note 1: It was a few years back, in Chicago. Hobbling ‘tween base paths I was no less ugly than Babe Ruth at his end with the Braves or, for that matter, my all-time idol Willie Mays stumbling to retirement in the New York Mets’ outfield).

Yet I love summer. Every summer. (As long as there’s air-conditioning). This year, in fact, I approached it with an internal skip down the sidewalk, not unlike the Costanza’s dance up the Manhattan street in his “Summer Of George”. Good weather was coming. There were places to go and things to do.

And so it was that o’er the past months, linked with Carrie I hugged my kids, played in the World Series, charted a future, and thrived. The important things!

Remiss I would be, however, if I didn’t memorialize the unimportant: the otherwise forgettable moments that colored in my times with smiles, warmth, and so often laughter. The ordinary.  How blessed we are when we marvel in the ordinary.

Here then, in alphebetical order, are the Most Important Unimportant Happenings of my Summer Of George:

AUTO WASH. “Dude,” said the guy wiping my car window at the AlPaul on Warrensville, “Don’t you ever get your car washed?” A head emerged from the passenger side: “He’s Rick’s friend. He comes here once a year.”

FIELD OF DREAMS. En route from Newark, Ohio — rural routes half way — we were passing through cornfields. “Do you mind stopping?” I asked, yet hesitate she didn’t. Not for a second. (Ed. Note 2. My bride had the wheel, of course. Says my driving makes her nervous). And then, in two takes, emerging from the tallest of grains I pronounced on video that “If you build it they will come!”.

GRANDMA BOGART’S PICTURE. Directing one-act plays in Garfield Heights, in need of a specific prop — the portrait of an old lady, no less, — I grabbed my Dad’s mother from our family’s archives. Her framed, near-century old picture hung deftly center/stage in a suburb she never saw.

KFC. Three years after the “I ate the bones!” tv commercial captivated me, with bride by my side I returned to The Colonel for chicken. Original recipe, of course — still perfect.

SMILE. One of the roles in the Garfield production called for a soft, sassy, sweet-with-an-edge female. Reaching out even prior to tryouts, I called someone from my non-theater world. Allison, I reckoned, would be perfect.

“I’ve never acted,” she demurred (yet her interest was piqued).
“You’re a natural,” said I.

Commitments kept her from auditions but one day after work, in the parking lot at the Chagrin/Green Starbucks we met. There, sharing a front seat, I showed her one page. All the laugh lines. “I’ll do it,” she said. (Go figure).

The show opened September 9 and the lady, insecure as she was, hit it out of the park. But I won’t remember the laughs (‘though the audience roared). I’ll hold on to her smile … and her beam. How nice it is to see a friend ring happy.

THE ZOO Carrie Bogart Week, the annual pageant commemorating our 2015 wedding, ran in August’s first week: five days of events planned for husband and wife. And Sunday of that week (gevolt!) we would head to the zoo. The Cleveland Zoo. On the f’ing west side. (Where I hadn’t gone since an 80’s Lodge picnic).

And then….

“If it’s too hot we won’t go to the zoo,,” urged my bride, that hot, humid day. “We’ll go in the fall.”

(Ed. Note 3. Our change in plans was simulcast on cable news networks. MSNBC cited “global warming”. FoxNews said it was God doing for me what I couldn’t’ do for myself).

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And now it’s over. Summer that is. It didn’t end on Labor Day, of course; that’s only the myth. (Ed. Note 4: It’s conclusion until the eighties, was the end of the Little League or softball season. Since ’85, its formal end has been our father’s August yahrtzeit).

And I closing book on it, I seal it with gratitude. Yes, for the family and friends that surround me. But also too, for the myriad of “ordinary” events that shape my extraordinary journey.

One more moment, please. One final thought:

On a bridge chair he sat. At a chartreuse table on the grass at a farmers’ market in Chappaqua. “Poems $5.00” read the sign. Clicking away on an old Smith Corona, peace reigned within him (and I had to approach).

“Would you write a poem for that woman?” I asked. My new friend obliged. And yet — what he crafted covered not only my beautiful bride, but my whole family around me:

“Only in the light of this shared existence we see it clearly.”

How right he is. How thankful I am. Summer is over, but the sun shines bright!

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