September 2, 2013

How I spent my summer

The summers of my childhood were LONG. I remember a vast expanse of  hot days stretched out before me, wide open and full of boredom and wonder. I explored the woods behind my house. I played Atari and watched Nickelodeon and worked on jigsaw puzzles. I went grocery shopping with my mom and I called friends in the middle of the afternoon, asking if they could play.

My friends and I rode our bikes to Mini Mart to buy New York Seltzer and Whatchamacallit bars. We rode to our grade school and played on the playground, slightly weirded out by the ghost-like building, quiet and closed. We played endless variations on tag and hide-and-seek. Our parents let us stay out until the sun went down - and although Fargo wasn't quite the Arctic Circle, we felt a bit of the magic of the midnight sun.

My summers aren't long anymore. Maybe it's the way life's responsibilities keep going: work, bills, chores. Maybe it's math: When you're 6, a summer represents 1/24 of your life; by 36, it's just one of 144 slivers of the same size.

Evie's summer was long. She says it feels like forever since she's eaten lunch in the cafeteria or spoken Chinese. She's ready to go back. Tomorrow, she begins first grade.

I remember how it feels to start a new school year. Everything is a new, different sized version of itself. Kids are taller. Lockers are smaller. The days stretch long again as routines are upended and the little pieces of life haven't yet fallen into their new order. On the first day, everyone asks the same question: "What did you do this summer?"

Evie may hear the same question from classmates and teachers, and she might share stories of her trip to Washington, D.C. or the trip to Wisconsin Dells or the day she learned to ride her bike without training wheels.

I probably won't hear the same question from my coworkers tomorrow. After all, they just saw me on Friday. So I'll answer it here, before the summer of 2013 gets mixed up with all the other memories of the years behind me and the years ahead. 

I spent 10 days traveling with my family, putting 2500 miles on the Prius, discovering new parts of the country and reuniting with wonderful people.

I spent 3 days at Wisconsin Dells with some very real friends whom I met on the Internet a 6-year-old's lifetime ago.

I embraced running and biking and fell in love with crisp, sunny, sweaty mornings. 

I filled up a giant white board with the rough outline of a novel that I'm equally inspired by and terrified of actually writing.

I strengthened my relationships with moscato and with my next-door neighbors, often simultaneously.

I watched Evie ride a bike for the first time, right after she told me she didn't need me standing next to her. "I've got this, Mommy," she said. "I just need a little privacy."

I sang along to Get Lucky and Blurred Lines, and was thankful my kids never asked me what those songs were about.

I took Felix to his first swimming lesson and his first movie (Monsters University).

I watched the July 4 fireworks over Lake Minnetonka.

I rocked out at two great concerts (Rock the Garden and The National), and took the kids to their first (John Mark Nelson).

I roasted a lot of vegetables.

I learned to check out e-books from my library, and my iPad became my reading companion. My favorites were The Age of Miracles, Olive Kitteridge, May The Road Rise Up to Meet You, and The Snow Child. None of these are "summer reads," but I read them this summer.

I got some new freckles, but mostly I was responsible and wore sunscreen.

I never got around to weeding the garden or organizing the garage. I'm not overcome by regret.

And just like that, it's time to wear boots and long pants. It's time for squashes at the farmer's market and red leaves on the sugar maple. I've seen enough summers to know they're not endless. They're 12-week projects, they're tiny slivers of our lives, they're collections of weekends and workdays and car trips and bike rides and ice cream cones and evenings watching fireflies and if you blink too quickly they're gone. 

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