The Dutch name for August is "Oostmaand," which derives from the sound one makes when the backs of one's thighs come in contact with the leather seat of a car that has been parked in the sun all day. Traditionally, the first syllable is expressed very loudly.
Actually, Oostmaand means "harvest month," which is certainly a more optimistic way of looking at summer's final chapter. When I was kid, these were the "dog days," a time of contradictory emotions. Nothing, for example, seemed more endless than an August day spent mowing yards or weeding my mother's garden in the broiling sun. Yet no month ever seemed shorter or more precious than this one, the last thin calendar page between summer freedom and the start of school.
August suffers from an identity crisis these days. Kids head back to school halfway through the month, meaning August — and summer — gets shortchanged. School used to start after Labor Day and end in late May. Now it runs from mid-August to early June. What happened to the theoretical three months of summer? I'm sorry. When it's 106 outside, it's not freakin' autumn! August should be celebrated, not truncated.
I think the problem is that August lacks a holiday. Nobody ever talks about cutting a few days out of Christmas break. Christmas and New Year's anchor December like a boulder. You don't mess with December. August, on the other hand, gets no respect.
So, in the grand tradition of "Festivus," the fictional holiday on Seinfeld which featured "feats of strength" and the "airing of grievances," I propose that August 25th become "Augustus."
Augustus shall be celebrated by gathering family and friends for an evening meal. Holiday rituals will include "the manly blackening of raw meat over coals," "the sharing of a cheap 12-pack," and "the pushing of at least one unsuspecting person into a pool." Also, there must be at least one person with a camera whose job it is to catch people with their mouth full or nodding off — or preferably both. Happy holidays.
My stepdaughter, Agatha, has moved back from Brooklyn to live in our garage apartment until next summer. She's a law school grad and clerking for a federal judge in Memphis. I love her dearly, but she has one habit that has caused me stress. She takes in foster dogs ...