Sweet Summer

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

There are just over four weeks of school left.  My son is as delirious with happiness as my daughter is desperate with despair.

“On the last day of school,” my son says, “I will throw all the papers in my binder into the air.”

“That’s called littering,” says my daughter.  “I am going to cry on the last day of school.”

I believe her.  Last year, my son bounded out of the gate into the summer sun with visions of popsicles dancing in his head while my daughter stumbled out, dazed by the brightness, the sudden freedom.  She took a few steps and then collapsed to the sidewalk, sobbing.

It doesn’t matter to my girl that there will be horse camp and a visit with her cousin.  She can’t see far enough ahead to take delight in cool sprinklers, watermelon slices, beach days, and the welcome dark of an afternoon matinee.

For my son, the summer threatens to end too soon.  He already mourns the end of that which has yet to begin.

I understand them both.

We are already six months into the year, and each week passes more quickly than the last.  Like my daughter I have nostalgia for the day almost before it ends.  “Remember breakfast,” I want to say.  “The milk on my cereal was so cold.”

Remember before my daughter lost her baby teeth?  Remember when she couldn’t read?  Remember when my son hopped on his knees instead of walking?

Every summer I try to slow time.  I make plans to savor the days, let the heat still my frantic pace, turn myself over to relaxation.  And most usually, summer goes quickly, passes in a whirl of carpools and play dates and scheduling.

When I was a kid, summer was loosely arranged.  I remember whole days spent swinging in the hammock on our back porch. I read lots of books and rode my bike down the back road to the little grocery store where I bought red licorice and rolls of Lifesavers candy.  My mom packed picnics and we hiked (somewhat reluctantly) into the forest near our house.  My brother and I played endless games of Clue or Monopoly and fought over who would be the car or the dog or the thimble.  We rehearsed circuses and talent shows and caught water spiders in the stream that ran through the back yard.

As we move through these next few weeks, through the end of first and third grade, through the June Gloom into the So-Cal sunshine, I will think of the summers of my youth and try to conjure for my children a little of that looseness.  I will try to find a balance between my daughter’s need for structure and my son’s need for speed.  I will make an effort to relax.  We will eat watermelon and tomatoes and fresh corn on the cob.  And one day, my kids will say to their kids, “You know, summer used to seem so long.”

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[Photo Credit: Gerg1967]

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