Tuesday, June 3, 2014


The calendar tells us that Summer officially starts on June 21-- the day of the summer solstice.

Tradition, however,  tells us that summer actually begins on Memorial Day.

Parades down Main Street or your own neighborhood street usher in memories of  those brave souls who have protected our freedoms.... and our right to enjoy summer.

Pools open nationwide.
Delicious aromas notify us of the first cookouts of the summer.
Decks are stained; patio hosed and outdoor furniture are pulled out of storage.

And with this advent of summer, come rules--- those official and traditional,--those written in stone, as well as those unofficial, unwritten rules, that we all just know.

Random Rules for Adults

Don't wear white before Memorial Day.

Plant your annuals after Mother's Day.

Cut your grass every eight days and not too short -- no shorter than 3 1/2 inches.

Water the flowers every night- unless it rains.

Cover your arms (and other bare areas) in church.

 Don't wear sandals with unpainted toenails.

Swimsuits are not worn in restaurant.

 Random Rules for Children  ( or at least in my childhood home)

It must be 75 degrees outside to go swimming. (This was the magic number, no matter what other conditions were in play- sun, no sun, wind no wind-- even sprinkling was okay if the temperature was 75.)

No swimming for a half hour after eating.(This could be an hour,depending on which adult is watching you) 

Call home to check in after 30 minutes. (Calling home may result in having to go home.  Not calling home would result in not be allowed to go again.)

Ask before you bring a friend home.

No one else may ride your bike but you.

You may not wear flip-flops, tennis shoes, or go without your socks- and absolutely no bare feet. (I wore corrective shoes for several issues, hence the shoes restrictions-- not sure the reason for the sock rule.)

What rules rule your summer?

What rules regulated your summer days as a child?

We all live by them--- those very clear rules that everybody knows.  Those same rules of which nobody remembers the origin or understands their "why".

Shaun Tan, one of my favorite creators of books for children,  has given us a summer gift to help us ponder this notion of not always knowing the whats and whys of the rules.

Tan offers in spare words and vivid dreamscapes, a thoughtful meditation  in  Rules of Summer, on arbitrary rules that a younger sibling must follow-- rules he doesn't understand.

Rules of which in, some case, he isn't even aware -- until he is in the middle of breaking them.

Rules that lead to harrowing adventures and  close escapes.

Rules established by his older brother.
And as only an older sibling can, consequences are conjured for the simplest infractions.

What does happen if a red sock is left on the clothesline?
" Never Leave a Red Sock on the Clothesline"  2012 Shaun Tan
What catatrophe occcurs if you eat the last olive at a party?

What happens if you forget the password or leave the backdoor unlocked?

Or you forget the way home?

In simple, direct prose and thought-provoking  images that carry his story--Tan pushes us beyond the summer, the rules, and the story--  to consider our own relationships to our siblings, our friends and others.

Visit Shaun Tan's page to read more about this treasure, including his own commentary on the book, and to see more of his remarkable images from the book.

Several other books created by Shaun Tan  rate among my own favorites and those of my students.

Each  stretched our thinking , delighted our senses, and turned the concept of story upside-down.

And each helped us more closely and intentionally examine our own lives... and the rules we live by.


 What are the rules that govern our relationships, the rules for being together?

Who creates the rules?

What happens when the rules are broken?

 Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Remember and reflect on your childhood summers.  What rules regulated your activities?  Who created and enforced these rules? How did the rules affect you and your summer?

Consider a close relationship-- a sibling, a friend, a co-worker.  What are the rules that govern your relationship?  Who creates and establishes the rules?  What happens when the rules are not followed?

What are rules you have established for yourself?

Write a personal narrative or essay about  how rules affect your life. 
Or you may write a poem meditating on the role of rules in society.

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