This past Memorial Day weekend, we were lucky enough to visit friends in Knoxville. And as I sat by a pool and read a Martha Stewart Living, or ate lavender and honey ice cream, or drove around our friends’ lovely neighborhood, I thought about what it is, exactly, that makes long weekends so magical.

First off, there is the Friday afternoon beforehand. Isn’t it exciting? Everyone is talking about weekend plans on the radio and it’s the one time that we’re actually interested in what Mark Goodman and Nina Blackwood are up to. In fact, that’s one of the best things about long weekends: that everyone has it too, and we’re all on vacation together.

It’s like life is tinted whether you’re wearing sunglasses or not. You can practically hear people stringing patio lights up on their houseboats or around their campground sites. You can already smell charred marshmallow and hot dogs even though it’s 2 o’clock and you’re sitting at your desk and all it really smells like is hand sanitizer.

On that afternoon, everything feels both preparatory and celebratory. You stock up on charcoal and citronella and sunblock. You fill up at the gas station and people are chattier and there are festive banners strung everywhere. You leave work early and it’s OK because everyone else does, too.

Saturday flies by and guess what? You don’t really care. You are having fun, but you don’t feel too desperate to hang onto it because there is just so much time left. Yes, Saturday, beloved Saturday, is yours to squander. In fact, it’s like it’s really Friday night, you tell yourself when Saturday night hits and you’re sitting in a camping chair or deck chair or porch swing or pool float or any other kind of seating that is reserved for capital-S Summer.

You awake on Sunday feeling a little sunburned and sticky-uppy haired, but hungry for bacon and eggs and strong coffee. On this day, it doesn’t matter what you eat or how much of it you have because it’s a long weekend and people who worry about diet on a long weekend are irretrievably boring. And you are not boring, oh no, my dear, no.

Your day slides on by. Maybe you hike. Maybe you nap. Maybe you shop. Maybe you go out for a meatball sub. Maybe you sample a flight of beer. It doesn’t matter what you do because it is Sunday of a long weekend and as you look around you, whether you’re sitting in a booth in Cheddar’s or you’re at a family reunion at Levi Jackson, you see that everyone has the same look of contentment on their faces. Everyone is relaxed and when Sunday night hits, it’s the sweetest spot of the whole weekend because tomorrow, which is supposed to be Monday, is really a magic day, a free day, a space in time that simply floats and is ready for the taking and tastes like the strawberries and cream you have for breakfast that magic morning.

And as Monday steams forward and the weekend begins to end no matter how hard you hold onto it, you realize that one big gift still remains: When you’re again at your desk and in the thick of life, it will already be Tuesday and you’ll be just 84 hours away from another glorious weekend.

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