welcome to summer

the half-wheel of moon drooled down on us, peeking through the pines, half-lighting the peonies, bent from the rains. the summer bugs hadn’t yet started their chorus. but it was june. it was a monday. and it was half past nine, and no one was hurrying.

we were just slamming the car doors, trying not to spill cotton-candy blizzard and blue-raspberry arctic-something-or-other anywhere near the insides of the still-smelling-new new car, which was when i glanced at the clock on the dash, saw it was nearly an hour past school bedtime, and sighed.

“i love summer,” i said, tripping over a rock in the pretty-much dark.

to which the little one retorted, “how many times do i have to tell you? it’s spring. this is spring break. it’s not summer until june 21.”

well, doesn’t he know his numbers?

and yes, technically speaking, were i inclined to pluck words based on the alignment of sun and sweet spinning earth, i would be more precise.

i am, however, not.

i am more stirred by the poetics of these unstructured days than i am by the facts of the matter.

in fact, the minute i start swooning about this state of mind that has me wanting to plop up my crocs and do nothing more rigorous than turning the pages of two delicious books i am reading in tandem (“signaling for rescue,” short stories by marianne herrmann; and “mr. gatling’s terrible marvel,” by my genius of a friend julia keller), i am reminded that summer–like a storm that blows in off the lake, with no warning–suddenly can turn into a mad-dash morning where the manchild has only one way to get to his very cool summer gig slinging a camera: me and the old car i am very much driving to some faraway outpost that requires a map and a mantra–”i will not get mad that no one figured this out the night before.”

and, yes, one of these meanders we can devote to the cold hard truth of summer versus the make-believe version, but let’s–just for the whimsy of it–stick here and now to what summer can be.

think: lemonade stands and peach pie oozing with juice. think summer porch and peanut-butter-and-jelly on a blanket, generously dusted with sand.

and think, maybe, about making a pledge.

oh, no, you needn’t start moaning, thinking i mean to get out the girl scout sash, and work toward one of those neat little circles you tried so clumsily to sew on after checking off each one of the itty-bitty boxes in the ol’ girl scout guide.

let us, though, start out this seasonal dash by holding up the rest of june, all of july and a good chunk of august to their fullest possibility, and then maybe proposing to approach this all with a little more vim and vigor this year.

my thinking along these lines got a bit of a jumpstart when i was out strolling by moonlight on the very first night after the schools around here let out their very last whistle, and shooshed all the kiddies away till the end of dear august, which i’ve now come to understand is sooner than you’d care to think.

wandering down one of the leafy, cobbled streets around here, i looked up at a house with a rather broad porch, a porch like a mama wrapping her arms. there, taped on the front door, was a sign: “welcome to summer.”

two strands of crepe paper, by then sagging, squirmed in the wisp of a wind.

i nearly cried, brightened by the fact that i’m not the only kook who approaches these things with the ceremony they deserve.

but also, mostly, by the notion that summer is more than a stack of hot days, one piled on top of another, like wet swimming trunks dumped in a heap in the basement, just daring the mildew to come.

it got me to thinking about how summer offers the chance to break loose of not only the school year’s constraints, but all those unspoken rules that can make one season bleed into the next.

what if, i wondered, what if summer offered a wholesale new way of being?

what if we reveled in this short sweet reprieve, not by packing up and leaving, but turning inside out each and every day, slathering ourselves in summerness the way other mothers (read: better mothers) remember to grease their bare-backed kiddies with great gobs of sunscreen for a day at the pool?

in my head (where i do all my best work), i started a list.

so far, it goes something like this: wake up late/wake up early. head out to the screened-in porch. sip coffee. listen to the birds wake up. watch the sunlight catch on the lipstick-pink petals of the climbing roses.

make blueberry pancakes. enlist the wicker-basketed bike for all errands. rediscover calf muscles. make daily rounds of the growing things in the so-called garden. carry clippers. cut a new bouquet every day. tuck them in odd places, like next to the children’s beds, just to see if anyone notices.

tiptoe back to the summer porch soon as the afternoon sun starts its descent. keep two books within reach, no matter where i go.

make lazy summer dinners. grill. strip tarragon leaves with reckless abandon, stuff inside chicken breasts, lace through mounds and mounds of pasta.

walk to the train, with all available children. pick up daddy, and watch his face light up.

go to the library. often. sign up for summer reading club. invite neighborhood kiddies to read in the summer porch. bake cupcakes, or simply serve pretzels and lemonade, to accompany whatever we’re reading.

visit your neighborhood ice-cream shop. try hard not to spill in the car. make sure that doesn’t happen by walking.

open the windows. turn on the ballgame. let the little one watch till the end of the game, paying no mind to the time on the clock.

steal away while he counts runs and innings. read some more.

go to bed with all windows wide open. wear summer pjs. fall asleep to nightsounds.

wake up, start all over again. only scramble it up. do something brand-new each day. something you always wanted to do, but couldn’t find the time for back in the days when lost mittens had to be located, and snowboots mucked up the hall.

it’s summertime. welcome to all it can be.

what’s your idea of summer? how will you spend your days? remember this here is make-believe, what you wish it could be.
the challenge: to see how close you can come to making it happen. the pledge: to try really loosely to savor the notion of summer.

i’m thinking of a few ideas here: maybe a summer book swap, read something yummy and mail it along. we might all be delighted by what lands in the mailbox. surely, we’ll take turns in the kitchen. if anyone comes up with something soooooooooo easy and so good, we’ll post it. if a wholly serendipitous summer moment lands in your lap, do tell; it might inspire the rest of us.
till then, kick off your shoes, open the windows, crank up the fans. and go freeze some juice in the old ice-cube tray. remember biting into a sort-of crunchy, sort-of slushy kool-aid cube?
p.s. i think this might be rather meandery. but it’s summer, straight lines and clear thinking are not always the surest way to go. thanks for winding along…..