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I remember childhood summers as 3 months of full-out celebration-- long lazy days stretching into nights that didn't seem to really darken until 11 PM and bright birdsong mornings starting out at 4:30 AM. Not only were there the brief family vacations at the beach or to visit cousins, but there was the Fourth of July, Daily Vacation Bible School, the county fair, family reunions, and of course and most importantly, my July birthday. I'm sure there were mundane chores to be done, a garden to tend, a barn to clean, a lawn to mow and all that stuff, but my memories of summer are mostly about fluff and frolic.
So where are the summer parties now? Who is out there celebrating without me? Nothing seems to be spontaneous as it was when I was a child. Instead I go to work most days in the summer.
I'm finding myself in the midst of my 52nd summer and I have to create celebrations if they are going to happen in my life. Without that celebratory perspective, the bird song at 4:30 AM can feel more irritant than blessing and the long days often mean I fall asleep on the porch swing nodding over a book at 9 PM. I want to treasure every, every minute of this precious time yet they flow through my fingers like so much water, faster and faster.
I realize there will be few "family" summers left as I watch my children grow, become adults and spread their wings. They may be on to their next adventure in future summers. So each family ritual and experience together takes on special meaning and needs to be appreciated and remembered.
So....for this summer my family has crammed as much in as we can in celebration of the season:
We took ourselves to the beach for three days of playing in the sand, roasting hot dogs and playing board games. We spent a week in the hayfields bringing in the bales--our little crew of five--sweating and itchy and exhausted, but the sight and smell of 900+ hay bales, grown on our own land, harvested without being rained on and piled in the barn is sweet indeed. Weekly we are out on the softball field in church league, yelling encouragement and high-fiving each other, hooting at the good hits and the bad, the great catches and the near misses, and getting dirty and sprained, and as happy to lose as to win. We had a wonderful July 4 barbeque with friends culminating in the fireworks show on our farm's hill overlooking miles of valley around us, appreciating everyone else's backyard displays as well as our own. We are now able to sing hymns in church in four part harmony--what a treat. We had a great time going to see the new Superman movie which made me remember all the comic books I treasured as a kid. We visited the traveling Vietnam War Memorial wall awed by the sacrifice made by so many of our American soldiers. We will be hosting a Sunday afternoon "lunch on the lawn" under the 100 year old walnut trees in our yard for our neighbors and friends, with home made ice cream and poem recitations and skits and songs for entertainment, just like small communities of people did a century ago. We'll make the trek down to Seattle by train to spend the day watching the Mariners play (and likely lose). We'll be back at the fair again this year with our horses--our fourteenth year.
Yet the real party happens right here every day in small ways without any special planning. It doesn't require money or special food or traveling beyond our own soil. It is the smiles and giggles we share together, the tickles and hugs for kids taller than I am. It's starting to have adult conversations with the new adults in our family--no longer adolescents. It's finding delight in fresh cherries from our own trees, currants and berries from our own bushes, greens from the garden, flowers for the table from the yard. It is foals in the field that come right up to us to enjoy rubs and scratches and follow us like puppies. It is babysitting for toddlers who remind us of the old days of having small children, and who give us a glimpse of future grandparenthood. It is kids coming from far away to ride our horses and learn farm skills. It is an early morning walk in the woods or a late evening stroll over the hills. It is daily contact with aging parents who no longer hear well or feel well but nevertheless share of themselves in the ways they are able. It is the awesome power of an evening sunset filled with hope and the calming promise of a new day somewhere else in this world of ours.
Some days may not look or feel like there's a party happening, but that is only because I haven't searched hard enough. The party is here, sparklers and all, even if only in my own mind.