August sunrise, Cambridge MA
Summer 2015 was replete with memories and full of the intertwined joy and sorrow that I now recognize as the fundamental rhythm of my life.
In June, we went to Canobie Lake Park to celebrate school being out. Grace graduated from 6th grade, which I vividly recall doing myself. Some combination of this graduation, my 15th business school graduation, and Grace herself made me suddenly, startlingly aware of the ways in which everything is changing. Parenting a tween, which is rapidly becoming parenting a teen, is not for the faint of heart.
Grace and Whit went to a couple of day camps near our house. We went for long walks in the still-light evenings, admired sunsets, and read together in bed. We spent weekends as a family down on the water. We ate ice cream.
In late June and early July, Grace and Whit spent two weeks with my parents and their cousins. We had a wonderful reunion of my sister and her family over the 4th of July, which is always a time we gather since my mother’s birthday is July 3rd. It was a sunny and happy long weekend, full of laughter and shouting and fireworks and my father reading Swallows & Amazons and my mother opening gifts after the traditional angel food cake. I loved every minute of it.
Grace, Whit and I spent a night at Great Wolf Lodge. A night was plenty. They loved the waterslides and the late-night ice cream sundaes though they both agreed one night was enough. While we were there my new goddaughter was born to one of my oldest and dearest friends. She was born on Whit’s 1/2 birthday and her mother is Whit’s godmother, and that coincidence made me irrationally happy. I can’t wait to meet her.
Grace and Whit then went to camp. It was not an easy drop off. Both of them were tearful, and I was anxious about leaving them. It didn’t take long for me to realize, though, that in my opinion the value of camp is not in spite of but because of the homesickness. In fact part of what I hoped to buy with my camp tuition was a few days of discomfort. So that was fine. Then things smoothed out, though at the end Whit had some additional challenges. It’s fair to say that hers was a terrific summer, and his was good though not as spectacular as last year. They can’t all be The Best Summer Ever, and some difficulty is part of what I’m hoping for, I realize as I walk through adolescence with these children.
I wrote about my favorite books of the half-year at the end of June, and unfortunately did not read a lot else over the summer that I adored. Kent Haruf’s luminous Our Souls at Night is an exception. My favorite quotation from the book is here. I also loved his book Plainsong, and enjoyed some great nonfiction, including Jessica Lahey’s The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed (which I plan to review next month for Great New Books) and Julie Lythcott-Haims’ How to Raise an Adult.
After camp the four of us went to Basin Harbor Club, on Lake Champlain in Vermont. This was our sixth year in a row and we absolutely loved it. I feel a real tension in my parenting life between horizon-broadening adventures and the comforting cadence of ritual. Both are important to us as a family, and to me as an individual. This is a tradition that has come to mean a lot to our family, and a downright glorious week. There are more memories than I can possibly list from the week, but I wanted to mention two. Several mornings I woke up at dawn and crept out of the cottage to for a run along now-familiar roads. Each time the sun rose as I ran, stopping me (literally) in my tracks. Secondly, on the last morning, as we walked to the waterfront for the last time, a formation of geese flew overhead, honking. I stood and looked up, hearing Mary Oliver in my head, feeling the brush of fall against my skin. Here we go, I thought.
We spent the last weekend of August with my parents at the shore, in the place where so many of our summer weekends happened. It was a weekend of lasts: last sail, last tennis game, last ice cream and sunset. It was beautiful and bittersweet at the same time. Just as life is.
How was your summer?