We lead an unscheduled summer by design and by choice. Days start slowly, with a warm golden retriever nose nudging me awake as the sun rises slowly over some horizon I cannot see from my house in the city. The boys laze around in boxer shorts and blankets, eating half-stale cereal from boxes, assembling a breakfast of champions, littering Luna Bar wrappers across the island counter so diligently tidied the night before. Long days stretch into the shadows of our memories, and without warning or invitation, the end of August has arrived.
Summer’s light is fading, something we notice nightly on our evening walk. The morning rainbows arising from the faceted crystal hanging from our south-facing bank of windows have come out for their end of season encore, slowly dancing across the walls. It is quiet, with the exception of the sound of the freeway’s ocean waves crashing in the not-so-faraway. My children are not alone in their dread for school to begin: a life with clocks and deadlines, packed lunches, shoes lined up near the front door, a dog left behind, forlorn, peering out at us driving away from her cozy perch on the couch.
This pace is a privilege. Most of the world is at work or at day camp, or possibly (the lucky few, depending on one’s level of extroversion) at summer camp in the woods on a gorgeous island, making fires and friends and flashy pottery in the art barn. The boys and I, we have not done these things.
Our accomplishments this summer are not noteworthy: Malcolm completed the Summer Reading Challenge not once, but twice, assembling an army of trinkets and coupons from the local bookstore. Oliver and our neighbor kid, Theo, presided over one chickadee funeral in our front yard. We have walked our girl, Zoe, through Ravenna Park no fewer than 79 times–evening, midday, morning, twilight, dawn’s light, midnight. We have gone swimming in faraway lakes, managing to not quite drown. We have seen cousins and aunts and uncles, not long lost but always stoked to be found. We have hiked on the flanks of Mt. Rainier and deep into the Cascades. We have spent time with grandma, and spent too many hours in the backseats of cars and front seats of trains. We have played Marco Polo in a mediocre pool at a mediocre motel in Klamath Falls, Oregon. We have planted pumpkin seeds and witnessed three tiny pumpkins emerge, veritable fruits of our labors. Currently, the boys are out in the alley, hot on the trail of the elusive Ravenna Park coyote family. We have done a lot of sighing, a lot of toe-tapping, and a lot of figuring out what the other end of the statement, “I’m bored” might be.
There are LEGO bricks littered across both levels of our house. The hot glue gun mostly sits unattended and switched on, pipe cleaners and googly eyes and golden thread twisted into tiny characters making up a small army of “Bobs.” (Don’t ask; I don’t get it either.) There are remnants of comic books, half illustrated and abandoned, sitting on the dining table week after week. Malcolm caught (and of course released) his first fish ever. Oliver clandestinely collected obsidian, breaking all sorts of national park laws, I’m certain. Malcolm perfected a Nirvana riff on his guitar, and in so doing, intimately introduced me to Nirvana in a way I never would have chosen. We saw a whistling marmot, one hundred thousand wildflowers, and cumulous clouds most folks in the pacific northwest get to experience for perhaps twelve days each year.
I have not yet mentioned that we went to Scotland and England at the start of summer. I’m not sure why this is…does it pale in comparison to the innate beauty of boredom that comes with long sunny days spent stateside in the summer? Not exactly. But I am left wondering which memories will seat themselves firmly into the backseats of our memories of a childhood I can only define as mostly magical. Will it be the Edinburgh castle, the highland cows, mom and dad stopping for yet another shot of espresso, riverboats meandering down the Thames, seven story toy stores, Picadilly Circus, the much anticipated crown jewels, the glorious, chaotic, tumultuously loud rides on the Underground? The overrated changing of the guards, the world’s cutest one-eyed pug perched outside the Tesco market?
Or will it be staring at summer skies, seeing animals in the clouds, eating blueberries straight from the bush, still warm from the summer sun? I do not know where memory begins and alternately, where memory ends, but I do believe that memory is one of the ways in which we figure out what is important to us. We cannot predict where the seeds of memory will germinate and root, but we can only hope that some do. I suppose my only truth is this: my heart is already mourning the end of summer.