To me, it’s still summer — and it will be until at least Sept. 22, which is officially the Autumnal Equinox. Unlike mothers of school-aged children, I have no reason to submit to the arbitrarily-imposed feeling of fall that a return to the school routine brings. I go primarily by the weather — and, by that metric, in Oklahoma, summer sometimes lasts through October!
Once upon a time, I, too, was impatient for pungent hot coffee, crisper air and cooler temperatures. I’d refresh my scarves, sweaters and ankle boots far too prematurely — and then find myself embittered when relentless heat dictated that I not yet wear them.
Then, I had babies. As they’ve changed so much else, Sweet Potato and Mint Julep have changed even the change of seasons. No longer is summer — those months of miserable, sweltering heat! — a season to be suffered or, better, avoided entirely with iced tea, an armchair, a book and air conditioning (although I’ll still take that combination any chance I get!). No, with children, summer is fun — just as I remember it was when I was a child myself!
Plus, as the Nester points out, most American parents spend just 18 summers with each of their children actually living at home. When this summer ends, I’ll have just 16 summers left with Sweet Potato, 17 with Mint Julep.
And oh! What a summer we’re having! It’s been, above all, the Summer of Swinging, for, in May, the Oilman (with an indispensable assist from his own dad!) bought and assembled a swing set for Sweet Potato. I’d delegated this project entirely to him and had pictured an idyllic wooden A-frame in a corner of our backyard. The Oilman, engineer that he is, researched swing sets assiduously and attended most closely to qualifications like “strength of pipe,” the result of which is that we now have the tallest, sturdiest, brightest backyard swing set I’ve ever personally encountered.
Sweet Potato can go nearly as high as she can on the swing strung from the maturest tree in her grandparents’ backyard — and she loves it. We’ve spent so much time swinging that I’ve worn a little patch of grass quite literally to death in the place I stand to push her.
Initially, she’d pout every time she had to get out of the swing, but we’ve worked on that. (“What’s the proper response when you receive a privilege? You say, ‘Thank you.’ It’s OK to express hope for the future, though. You could say, ‘I hope I swing again!'”) With the aid of a timer and a quick rotation to her next-favorite outdoor toy (a sand and water table — an early, excellent and blessedly open-ended birthday present from Lolo and Boppa!), we’ve mastered it. (“When the timer goes off, I ‘top ‘winging. Too-too, Mama. I ‘ope I ‘wing again!”)
Oh, what else? Praying — outside on dim summer mornings, at weekday Masses (with many a restaurant breakfast afterward!), in the prayer corners of our bedrooms. Swimming (or running through the sprinkler!) — at our neighborhood pool, at pool parties, at Mimi’s and Papa’s, at the local aquatic center, in our backyard baby pool. Walking — across the street for an iced coffee, to the neighborhood park to slide, in the city park to feed the ducks. Reading — when we need a break from the heat, when we receive a lovely new book from a friend (“They Were Strong and Good” — buy it!), when the sun goes down. Feasting — on easy, easier, easiest summer meals (pork tenderloin salad! chicken and tomato toss! sandwiches!), on peak fruit, on summery treats like ice cream, popsicles and key lime pie. Celebrating — a dear friend’s wedding, a family reunion and Sweet Potato’s second birthday and baptismal anniversary.
Amid all the summer fun, we’ve mostly maintained the rhythms of our household, although lately I’ve fallen dismally behind. For one thing, we were all sick a couple of weeks ago with hand, foot and mouth disease (let’s not dwell on that!). For another, I’ve tackled a couple projects that I’d procrastinated this spring (organizing our garage, deep cleaning our patio), which cut into my normal cleaning time. I’d say I don’t care — and I really haven’t sweated every last bit of water, sand and grass that has snuck into our house — but I clearly do. Apparently, I’m not alone in that (h/t to LMLD).
It’s all been mightily worth whatever effort it’s required — and it was a surprise, I must admit, to discover that it’s up to me to arrange the summer fun I remember, at least right now while my children are still so very small.
On Sweet Potato’s birthday, I woke up and walked into the kitchen. “Something’s horribly wrong,” I thought. “Where are the balloons and the streamers?” It was a ridiculous shock to remember that, in this little household, I am the mother who bears the privilege and responsibility of rendering these days sweet in their details. As I said at the outset, though, it’s the babies who make it fun!
How I so hope you’ve had an old-fashioned, fun summer, as well! If not, well, it’s really not too late, whatever the school calendar might say!
P.S. If you’re just over it and would rather read about fall, I’m happy to oblige you from my archives … Here’s a bit about tailgating, for example, and one about easy eats for Autumn. Thanks for reading!