Farewell, Old Friends

As a youth, I'd never have guessed that there is an adult equivalent to the last day of school, but I find, each spring as the television season winds down, that I experience a similar sense of exhilarated release when my favorite television series air their season finales.

You'd think I might feel sad to see my TV pals take their leave for four or five months, but instead I find myself gleefully checking them off, one by one, as they depart for the summer.

NYPD Blue's in summer reruns? Great, now my Tuesday nights are free. No more new episodes of Friends or Will and Grace until the fall? Terrific, maybe I'll sign up for that Thursday night Beginning French class I've been eyeing for months.

Part of the problem is that I am both blessed and cursed with a perhaps overly-developed sense of loyalty. I have trouble giving up on a show until the network has pulled the plug on it. And since a great many programs outlive their prime, this can create a certain resentment. I've yet to forgive L.A. Law for those final two or three few seasons when it was a mere shadow of its former self. Those are hours I can never recover.

But let's face it, like classmates of yore, most television characters, even on the better shows, tend to grow a bit wearisome by the time May has rolled around. Not that I don't look forward to seeing them again in a few months, but just now I could use the break, frankly.

And couldn't most of us use a similar break from our co-workers? In fact, I'm inclined to think it might be a good thing if we all took the summer off. Don't those of us who toil outside Tinseltown also deserve a hiatus? I doubt there's an employee to be found, white-collar or blue, whose outlook and attitude wouldn't benefit from 12 or 16 weeks off each summer. The truth is, we wouldn't really be loafing--after all, television stars rarely do; they use the summer months to make movies. Why shouldn't the rest of us be afforded the same opportunity to dabble in other endeavors? Just assign us each a summer replacement and cut us loose; who knows what we might come up with?

And if the concept of creative hiatus pans out in the workplace, who's to say where else it might pay off? They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, so I'm guessing that a few of my former flames might've stuck around a little longer if only they'd been allowed, say, one month off for every two months on. I'm not without my upside as a significant other, don't get me wrong, but I'm hardly perfect, and requiring anyone to commit for the long term without the occasional furlough may be simply expecting too much.

And as much as most of us love our families, who isn't occasionally driven crazy by them? If you could take the summer off--maybe even adopt a new set of parents and siblings and a different last name--you might well come to more greatly appreciate what you have.

Mostly, though, I savor the broad blank canvas the end of the television season presents. My time is newly my own, and the world is my oyster. I feel the same sense of freedom, actually, each January 2nd. The span from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is fun and festive, yes, but also exhausting, and there's something to be savored about a month in which nothing much happens. In January, I rarely have to even peek at my social calendar when an invitation is tendered. The chances are pretty darned good that I'm free, and that's a bit of a relief after the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

So during these winter months, while the cold winds howl, while others dream of May's sunshine and flowers, I look forward to not rushing home to witness Ed Steven's latest misadventures, to not fretting over whether I remembered to set the VCR to capture the latest travails of Scully, Mulder, and Doggett. I count the days until I can, at the end of a day's toil, wander home at my leisure, maybe even stopping off to take in a movie or a refreshing beverage along the way, knowing I'm not missing a thing until at least September. It's almost as good as going barefoot in the backyard.

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