I washed all the bathing suits and beach towels for the last time today. I folded the towels and put them up high in the hallway closet. I rotated the too-snug swimsuits out of the drawers and into boxes to be packed away and passed on. Then I came downstairs, lit an apple spice candle, and chopped vegetables for one of my favorite fall meals. This is all part of my grieving process, a necessary routine for me as I say good-bye to summer and begin to embrace fall goodness.
It was a good summer - a perfect blend of nothing and everything. We anticipated these months as Milo’s first true exposure to the wonder of sunshine and water. He was too tiny to soak in all of summer last year, but this, this was different. Experiencing summer alongside my children is one of my favorite parts of motherhood. Life is better when we’re outside - wet, dirty, or stained with red Popsicle. Older siblings get along better when they have an entire park to roam, and they need fewer reminders to keep their hands to themselves when there are diving boards and water slides. Add chubby baby thighs toddling around that park or pool, and you know it’s going to be a good season.
We kicked off our summer with a weekend in Red River Gorge. I have strict rules about camping with babies. Actually, I have one strict rule: I don’t tent camp with babies. Instead, we opted for a lovely little cabin, well off the beaten path and just uphill from a small pond. This quiet pond came alive at night as the sun slipped from yellow to pink and hundreds of frogs sang out their mating calls, each boastful male trying to out-sing the other. In the mornings, we ate our breakfast around the campfire and then headed out for days filled with hiking, exploring, and trying to be cool parents by jumping off giant boulders.
June was filled with lazy days mostly spent at the pool. Long gone were my days of relaxing on the pool’s edge while the big kids swam and baby Milo slept in the stroller. I became a physical helicopter mom as Milo fearlessly toddled around the pool with no regard for the water’s depth. He was drawn to water in any form he could find: water tables, sprinklers, fountains, baby pools. He was also partial to naps in the sun.
Summer evenings in our front yard give me all the happy feels. We affectionately (and somewhat sarcastically) call our home Camp Blue Ash due to its wilderness-like qualities. We have no shorten of dirt, bugs, wild animals, or unusual plant life. But we have learned to take advantage of all Camp Blue Ash has to offer; we watch woodpeckers destroy our trees, we compete with neighbors in mole trapping competitions, and we save baby birds who fall out of their nests. (Unsuccessfully, I might add.)
July and August were packed with travels. We loaded the van for a week-long beach vacation in North Carolina, and days later we repacked the van for a week-long lake house vacation in northern Wisconsin.
Vacationing with a one-year-old is a different kind of vacation, and there were many times I felt like I was missing out.
I stayed back while the others went to the beach so he could take his morning nap.
I stayed back while others went out past bedtime to watch the baby sea turtles emerge from the sand and scurry to the ocean.
I went to the drug store to get cough medicine for a sick baby while the others were at the pool.
I walked around outside entertaining a baby who’d rather move than sit in a high chair while the others sat down for dinner in a restaurant.
All the missing out prompted self-pity, and I began to think: If I didn’t have a one-year-old on this vacation, I could do all the other things everyone else was doing. But then again, if I didn’t have a one-year-old on this vacation, then I wouldn’t have Milo on this vacation. And that’s when all the self-pity seemed kind of foolish.
Our summer ended with our annual trip to Coney Island. No, not the boardwalk in Brooklyn. Our Coney Island is a rickety little amusement park with carnival-like rides that spin you, twirl you, whirl you, rotate you, revolve you, and then pause for a moment before doing it all over again in the opposite direction. There is a single outdated roller coaster that cannot possibly meet current safety regulations, and a ramshackle Ferris wheel that requires Dramamine for all riders over the age of 30. But our children adore this place, and my blessed husband has a stomach of steel, so while they’re screaming their heads off on rides like The Scrambler and Tilt-a-Whirl, I’m listening to a local show choir sing Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and watching Milo sit in a train that moves in a circle at about 2 miles per hour. And then he sat in a boat that moved in a circle. Then a rocketship. Then a plane. Then a helicopter. You get the idea.
We spent months telling Milo all about this dreamy time of year called summer, and it did not disappoint.
I’m pretty sure he liked it.
Til next time, summer.