We swept away the dust and dirt covering our porch from a long, slow winter. There was a faint breeze and the clouds were momentarily covering the summer’s first fully sunny weekend. We rearranged the table and chairs and grill in the small space we share with our neighbors in the condo across the way. My daughter, who is edging close to her second birthday, commandeered the broom while I sprayed and wiped every surface twice. My boyfriend fired up the grill and we waited for my 11-year old son to ring the bell and come running up the stairs to sit with us as the afternoon turned to evening.
We were making room for summer, the guest who has taken too long to arrive, but who quickly we throw our arms around and thank for being here, forgetting she should have shown up a month ago.
Our little family loves summer. Our schedules might not show it. Our calendar is complicated by my son’s day camps and sleep-away camp and visitation and vacations with his dad, by our work commitments, and now by a toddler in a daycare with robust activities. We are also confined by budget this year, and I have spent the winter concerned that another summer will slip by without a big get-away vacation or plenty of worry-less weekends when the adults can strip off the stresses and dive into the lake with the littler ones. I want that kind of summer for all of us.
This is summer, I thought. This little moment is full of summer.
I was perseverating on the vacation part while we cleaned the porch — Is there anyway I can make Maui happen? Can I survive camping with a toddler? What about that rental treehouse in Michigan I bookmarked? Could California be a possibility? Is an all-inclusive resort in Mexico a remote possibility? — when I remembered there was sliced watermelon waiting in the kitchen. While my toddler finished up her avocado and rolled peas around on her plate, I fetched a few triangles for her eat.
She grabbed one with both hands and sank her baby teeth in, the sweet red smeared across her delicious cheeks. In a flash, I remembered being her age, maybe a little older, sitting at a long kitchen table in the hot and humid summer, eating a huge slice of watermelon with the juice running down my bare chest. The memory has a hazy yellow film like most of my recollections from the mid-70s do, especially those at our “farm,” a run-down house on 127 acres of woodland that my parents owned with six other college friends. During our free-range visits, we hiked and played in the hose, hung tight on rope swings and got lost in the woods, ate sugar cereal and took baths in the kitchen sink. No television, no phone, not much to do. And we still fell into our creaky pull-out beds exhausted every night. The thing about that watermelon memory, and really all my time at that farm as a kid, is that I felt happy and free to just be a kid — a kid covered in dirt and watermelon and wildflower allergens.
My daughter was consumed by the watermelon, completely delighted by the taste she didn’t remember and having the whole slice in her own little hands. This is summer, I thought. This little moment is full of summer.
I will still worry about making summer feel big for my kids and worth all that winter for me and my boyfriend. But I am also going to work hard at seeing the fullness in each little moment at the free beach a few miles away, in staying in our PJs until lunch time on Sundays, stretching out on the grass at the park, and leisurely dinners on the porch without the pressure of homework and deadlines. I will keep bringing out the watermelon as a reminder of the sweet and the simple, the summer moments to savor right here and now.