All is not lost in an idle summer

Sarah Sanders finds solace in life’s simplest accomplishments.

Sarah Sanders finds solace in life’s simplest accomplishments.

Sarah Sanders
Sarah Sanders

I had big plans in May. The Spring 2009 semester had just ended, and I said to myself, “Sarah, this is going to be your transformational summer.”

The next three months, I thought, were to be my most impressive. That’s what summer is all about, isn’t it? Exploring the world and coming back in the fall to show everyone how you’ve grown.

Maybe my plans weren’t that big – I had no intentions of leaving the country or even the city. But I did have other adventures in mind.

Goal No. 1 was to disassemble my bicycle. I purchased a new bike from an exchange student returning to Tokyo, so, my old bike became a potential experiment. I was going to dissect, examine and tinker – you know, take the thing apart. I would then rebuild the machine, consequently learning a great deal about its mechanics and inner workings.

It makes a lot of sense to know how your vehicle works, especially when it has the potential to leave you stranded with a flat tire and busted chain on Front Street on a Saturday night, four miles east of where you live. Plus, I can’t preach about the convenience and practicality of the cycling contraption if I can’t comprehend the system itself.

Spoiler alert: this goal was never achieved.

I didn’t even glance at “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.” I rode to Manayunk and back on a fixed gear with a shoddy brake and the wind in my hair. I try to justify my procrastination now; after all, it was a heavy task to take on, and I had families to take care of on “Sims 2.” My next ambition wasn’t as ambitious: I wanted to re-learn knitting. The keyword is “re-learn.” I had already acquired this skill.

This venture was almost as important as the bicycle job because knitting can make Christmas presents for the family pretty easy – everyone gets scarves and hats. I just needed to refresh myself, especially after my first attempt at a scarf had gone awry. It was too wide, so I ran out of yarn pretty quickly, and it became a small placemat.

Unfortunately, I never dug out my needles nor stepped foot in an arts and crafts store to buy yarn. Looks like the Sanders family can just expect really nice Christmas cards in the mail this December. I doubt they would wear my placemats anyway.

To make a much longer story short, I had several other goals this summer: cook better, paint something, visit my brother in Michigan, read a biography on Harriet Beecher Stowe, buy a citronella candle, sew up the crotch holes in my pants, et cetera.

So, Sunday night before the semester began, I found myself pondering the last few months. What had I accomplished? Had I achieved anything I had meant to? The resounding answer in my head was “no.”

I’ll tell you something that has changed: I learned to love the tomato. I’ve always had a taste for ketchup and spaghetti, but if my mom tried to slip me a fresh tomato slice, I would throw a fit before I would take a bite.

Now, still a fickle and stubborn eater, I’ll take it on a sandwich, in a salad, in my tofu scramble or alone with some salt and pepper. The only improvement in my life these past few months has manifested in a red, pulpy, juicy, slightly acidic fruit.

What do you have to say for your summer? Don’t tell me you just stayed home, worked all the time and nothing changed – because I won’t believe you.

My sheer laziness in doing anything concretely productive this season still left me with a little surprise in the end. If you take anything from the granny-on-a-rocker story you just read from me, it should be the idea that change is inevitable – and it can be as small as a tomato.

Even when I tried to force it and failed, a transformation happened anyway. So, while you’re struggling to adjust things you don’t like about yourself or attain something you wish you had, take comfort in the idea that, at the very least, you will not be the same.

Sarah Sanders can be reached at

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