I often end up conflicted about summer. In June I’m like a wide-eyed toddler about to chomp down on her first lollipop, all excited and can’t wait and finally! By mid-August I’m more like a disgruntled teenager who just wants to be alone.
The first two months of summer brought visits with old friends, a trip to Disneyland with Lilah, time on the East coast at the sea and then the lake and a weekend away for me at a writing retreat with the most marvelous people. Once home, I reluctantly agreed to let Ella and Ruby stay home and do nothing the last two weeks of summer vacation. They bickered and didn’t make their beds and wanted to be carted to this friend’s house and that movie and this mall. Without meaning to, I morphed from The Laid Back Mom Who Digs Summer into The Mom Who Can’t Wait For School To Start Because My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy.
For 14 days I was consumed with being “done” with summer and it sort of blotted out the (mostly) wonderful 10 weeks before. On the first day of school, I watched gleefully from the car as Ella and Ruby headed into the building with their overloaded bags of supplies and toothy grins, their long, sun-kissed hair gleaming. I was happy to have time to myself, to finally get into a regular groove, but I also felt that pang of nostalgia that comes with most endings, wanted or not. Now that summer was finally done, I knew, without question, that I’d miss it.
I’ll miss quiet mornings when the big girls sleep and I’m outside on the brick patio blowing bubbles with Lilah. We talk about what makes a bubble and the word “iridescent” and why the wand sinks to the bottom of the bottle. She declares our backyard Bubble Land and we are the Bubble Makers.
I’ll miss digging my feet into the sand, my toes disappearing under eons of crushed coral and clam shells, a world of broken bottles rubbed soft and precious by the pounding sea. I’ll miss flip-flops and Birkenstocks; bathing suits all day and Popsicle juice running down chins and sticking in between fingers. I’ll miss the smell of sunscreen and the way the sea salt leaves our hair wavy and thick.
I’ll miss this summer when Ella turned 13 and wonder when she so silently slipped into Teen Land. We have only five more summers with her in this way, under our roof, staying in bed until noon, traipsing around in her pajamas. In the beginning of the summer she still surprised us with spontaneous hugs and unguarded smiles. Now she gets a little awkward when I pull her to me in a full body hug. She stays there, but for just a fraction of a second less than she used to. She doesn’t bother rolling her eyes when I sing in the car but instead throws me a tight-lipped look that lets me know just exactly how uncool I am. I’m not worried about being uncool, but I can feel our connection loosening and all I want to do is pull the cord tight again. I know this is the way of it though, the needing to break down and pull away, so she can begin to build her whole self.
I’ll miss saying “yes” without thinking too hard about it. Yes to impromptu gatherings or entire days in and out of the pool or afternoon movie marathons. Yes to late nights and an extra order of fries and sleepovers. Yes to the warm chocolate chip cookies we just baked and ice cream at any hour. For many reasons, our regular, everyday life requires more structure and planning than my summer life. It’s easier for everyone when we stay within the lines.
It comes down to this: what I’ll really miss is time. I’ll miss the way time slows and lengthens across a day. The world etches an elliptical loop, a well-worn path, tilting happily towards the sun, drawn like a moth to flame. The days are longer and the minutes themselves seem to take their time beginning and ending and beginning again. The light lingers, glinting off water, blanketing the horizon in brilliance, dazzling us with tangerine stripes and wisps of fiery vermillion, as if the whole world is slowly burning down. All I can do is watch, letting the minutes tick by. It’s all that is required in the summer.
In the end, it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by, but there is proof. The girls have grown like sapling trees, their feet dangling over the edges of their beds, their long limbs akimbo, their hair ever longer. Their shorts are too short, their t-shirts skim their midriffs. Ruby’s nose is sweetly freckled and her face has changed shape, slimming a bit, shifting around her cheekbones. I am slightly shocked at the passing of time and how I cannot change the pace of it no matter how much I want to. Fall is here and now, without my consent, time speeds up, making demands and schedules and must-dos.
Summer is over and I will miss every minute of it.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers gather together to share their versions of a completed sentence. This week’s prompt was “”What I’ll miss about summer…” and is hosted by Kristi Rieger Campbell (findingninee.com), me, this week’s sentence thinker-upper, and Allison McGrath Smith (thelatchkeymom.com).