Sunday, December 4, 2011

Summer vacation: Sept. 4, 2005

I'm not really very good at relaxing. My husband is the one with the sense of whimsy and the gift for in-the-moment play. For whatever hard-wired reason, I always feel like I need to be accomplishing something, getting somewhere, hitting some mark. I'm kind of a drag, to tell the truth.

But then there was this one summer...

Saying goodbye to the best summer vacation ever
    I usually love to see summer end.

    By the time August is getting middle-aged, I have had more than enough humidity, sunscreen and mosquitoes. I want fall. I want bright, cool air and vivid blue skies. I want to get my corduroy out of the closet and burn my bathing suit as an offering to the cellulite gods.

    But as the back-to-school catalogs stacked up in my mailbox last month, I realized I was uncharacteristically sorry to see the end of this summer.

    The last couple of months have been wonderful, and it all wrapped up two weeks ago when my 5-year-old headed off to his first day of kindergarten and my husband was out the door to start a new job.

    That big dose of reality left the baby and me contemplating each other in a house that was oddly quiet. The thing that most characterized this summer, I realized, was our crowded, happy, noisy house.

    My husband left his old job July 8 and wasn’t expected at his new job until Aug. 22. That is 44 days off work, and I am here to tell you that 44 days off work is what the world needs.

    OK, so we were flat broke this summer. I worked extra hours at my evening job to keep the utilities and insurance bills paid. We burned through our little savings account. My mother treated us to innumerable cartloads of groceries, and we ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches.

    It was totally worth it.

    My 5-year-old spent half his summer at the pool with his dad, where he conquered his fear of putting his face underwater and learned to do a cannonball. He spent the other half of his summer riding bikes at the Riverpark with his dad, where he announced his intention to go 41 miles an hour. I’m pretty sure he got close.

    There were big moments for the baby, too. He learned to stuff his feet into his mouth. He made two sharp little teeth and chewed on everything within reach, including the cat, my shoulders and his toes. Sometimes we’d just put him on a blanket in the middle of the living room floor, sit back and watch him roll into a ball and gnaw wetly on his feet.

    Hey, it beat the heck out of summer TV.

    We started each day by waking up whenever, eating whatever, then heading out to do whatever together. I worked evenings while the boys ate macaroni and cheese, watched the Braves on TV and stayed up too late. Sometimes they took baths. More often they did not.

    "Me and Daddy went swimming," my son would say. "We don’t need baths."


    This summer was, in short, boy paradise.

    I worried my 5-year-old would be traumatized the morning he awoke to discover his father had already left for work, and he was expected to don a backpack and get to school. I told him, at intervals, that the day was coming.

    "Why can’t I just stay here with Daddy?" he asked.

    "Daddy won’t be here," I said. "Daddy will be at work, and you will get to go to kindergarten. Kindergarten is really fun."

    "When will I get to see Daddy?"

    "At about 6 o’clock every night, when he gets home from work. And after dinner, you really do have to take a bath."


    And that was it. We all woke up early two Mondays ago, my husband buttoned up his business casuals, my son shrugged his way into his backpack, and the best summer ever was over.

    The baby and I are adjusting to quieter days, and I am making a dent in the housework I neglected utterly all summer (though I can’t yet bring myself to clean the end table where my son drew his name in the dust.)     

    We’re getting back on real world time. Soon we’ll even be able to buy our own groceries again. Our summer vacation is over.

    But man, it was fun while it lasted.

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