What Is So Rare?
by John Norberg, humor columnist s

"And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days."

Today is June 1. If ever there was a month full of perfect days, this is it.

Chilly air leaves in June. Heavy heat doesn't arrive until July. The grass won't brown before August. I hope. In June, our flowers still outnumber the weeds, although the race is on.

School is out in June. Summer is fresh and all before us. June is a perfect month.

James Russell Lowell was the 19th century poet who wrote, "And what is so rare as a day in June."

This is a special poem in my family. As a boy in the early 1920s, my father began reciting the lines to his mother every year on June 1st. It started as a game. She challenged him to see if he could remember to recite the poem. He did. Then it grew into a tradition. Even as an adult he would call our grandmother on the first day of June and say: "And what is so rare . . ."

After our grandmother was gone, our father called my sister each June 1.

Now our dad is gone, too. But we never forget the first of June. There are many things I'll never forget.

As June was poised to arrive, our youngest daughter, who will be 22 this summer, bought a new desk. It came in a long, flat box: "some assembly required."

Dad: "You need someone who knows what they're doing to help put that together."

Daughter: "Yeah, you're probably right. Do you know anyone who knows what they're doing?"

Dad: "Did I ever tell you about the playhouse my dad and I put together for you when you were 4 and we couldn't get the parts to fit together?"

Daughter: "Yes. That's why I'm thinking maybe mom should help me."

Dad: "Let's see the instructions. Okay. Part 'A' fits into part 'XX' using screw 'Z,' screw 'LT' and two bolts 'N' with lock washers 'Y.' You know - what would you think about skipping the instructions and putting this thing together with duct tape?"

Daughter: "Let me see the instructions."

Dad: "What do you want me to do?"

Daughter: "Tell me about putting together the playhouse while I figure this out."

The instructions made more sense in French than they did in English. When we finished there were unused parts, screws and bolts lying on the floor.

Daughter: "Aren't we supposed to have used all the parts?"

Dad: "Absolutely not. If you're really good at things like this, you can do it with half the parts."

I don't think she believed me. But she thanked me and said without my help she probably could have done it in half the time. But it would have been less fun.

We laughed though it, just like my dad and I had done on the Christmas Eve we tried to put her playhouse together. It actually took us into Christmas morning to finish. It actually took us until New Year's Day. That was nearly 18 years ago. It's hard to believe.

That playhouse is a wonderful memory. Assembling her new desk will become a great memory, too - if it doesn't fall apart in the next few days.

I know what my father would say if he were here today as we enjoy life together with a whole, fresh, new summer before us.

He'd say: "And what is so rare as a day in June . . ."

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