You can’t help having a pit in your stomach at the end of summer. The arrival of Labor Day reminds you of all the things you didn’t do that you wanted to, the people you didn’t get to visit with and the things you just couldn’t pack in–in time.
One summer of my childhood memory, my family was coming home from a rare trip out to dinner. There was a band playing at the park in my hometown. At some point, the band initiated a dance contest. I danced my little girl heart out hoping for first prize. It was a couples contest so my Dad was my partner. Slowly, couples were eliminated all around us. Then, much to my little girl expectations–we WON!
Is it my fondest memory of summer? Probably. It’s now a blur in my mind but I will always know for certain that one summer my Dad and I danced in Johnson park together and won a dance contest. It was pure. It was peaceful. It was innocent. It was summer.
Looking at my own children at the end of each summer unloads this same type of sappy overwhelming nostalgia. As parents, summers become emotional threads by which you hold onto your children. You tug gently on them, to pull them close, to take a mental snapshot, to keep them as the little people they are this summer.
But you also bear the burden of being the to ringmaster of their summer circus. You want the memories they have to fit the very carefully composed painting you have of the-perfect-summer-you-want-them-to-have.
My days this summer were filled with sandy feet, snarly hair, sticky fingers and sunscreened cheeks. I watched them wade in the lake, bury each other in the sand, suck on purple popsicles and race each other all over the beach. I saw, in them, what summer truly is: sweet; fleeting; precious.
You hope for their memories to be as sweet as your own. The hunt for “beautiful rocks” to add to our rock collection, the way you danced with them to “Wagon Wheel” with the Friday Night band. You want them to have your own memories and be able to say, “I had such great summers when I was a kid.”
But your memories, over time, will become their memories too. I will be able to tell Parker ten times over about the time he posed with the Asian family for a photo at Central Park Zoo. I will be able to tell Celia how she at two years old would putter around the shops with me and her grandmother, as if she were just another girl on the shopping trip, checking things out. I will tell them about our summer bucket list, our long car rides and even the struggles I had with them as a parent.
So, my sweet Parker and Celia, this is what I hope for you:
That you appreciate a refreshing swim in the lake, a stunning Adirondack view, a good hot dog with ketchup. That you carry the zest for playing– everything in your life and never grow tired of games of any kind. That you cherish quiet, long, pajama mornings as much as you love loud, boisterous family gatherings.
But mostly, I hope this summer and every summer you have is pure, peaceful and innocent. Just like that girl dancing in the village park.