Friday, June 7, 2013

summer: day one

It was our first day of summer, the kids just having had their last day of school.  But this is the in between time, when they are done but Jonathan isn't home yet since he hasn't yet ended his school year.

There are always these lovely days at the end of the school year when it is just us, just the kids and I.  When we rest, reclaim our true selves, work through the uglies, and get into the swing of summer.  I alternate between being excited about these days that are just us and nervous about this time, nervous about how it will go, whether I will be able to make it feel good for everyone, nervous about whether I will be able to keep my cool for all of the 12 hours straight during which it starts to feel as though it is just me who is tasked with meeting all their needs and being fun mommy at the same time.

We spent our first day:

Not making lunches or packing backpacks the night before.  That was very nice.

Not worrying about whether the kids had clean underwear or socks without holes. Whether there was appropriate outerwear (for anything the state of Maine might throw at us) shoved into their backpacks, and some form of elastic waisted soft and fastener free clothing for a few a certain someone.

Getting the boys haircuts.  A rather strange thing to do, but I had put it off during the last few weeks despite all sorts of photographable events, feeling like adding it into the mix of end-of-year chaos felt like one more thing to do.  Then I remembered that the next day we were celebrating my mother's retirement from teaching and would be donning button down shirts and dresses.  My mother is a public school educator, tried and true.  She believes strongly in the power of a good teacher.  And she also believes in the importance of a good haircut...commenting anytime one of us has let a bit too much time pass between trims.  And commenting on one's mood and how it must have improved because we just got a haircut.

After returning my boys to a state of tidy, eyeballs showing and ears unobstructed, all three kids asked if we could stop by our local Audubon center, which we drive past to get to the haircut place.  I don't know why I was surprised by this request, but I was.  Possibly because, especially in these early days of summer, it is usually very hard to find something that works for all three kids -- at least before we have eased into our summer days and selves.

But we headed to Audubon, for a short visit, due to impending lunch needs and such.  We walked down to the frog pond, a place where I have spent many mornings with each of them, as their littler selves, looking for frogs, listening to croaks and the bittersweeeet call of the redwinged blackbirds, and spreading exploded cattail seeds.  I have such memories of each of them here, and it was hard to stay in the moment and with their very large seeming current selves, and not go down the road of nature classes we had taken here, times when one of them had gotten wet feet, times when we had seen an osprey, the countless times I had nursed one of them in the parking lot...

But when I saw Nicholas put his arm around Elliott to guide him and help him to find the bullfrog that was just over there, between the cattails and to the left of that big lily pad, because he knew how important it would be for Elliott to lay eyes on the frog, I felt like summer had begun.

We looked for the frogs, spied on the class of children who were there, just as each of my children had been at some point in years passed, and walked around to see old favorites: the whale bone on the hill, the path through the meadow, the apple orchard.

A mother groundhog and her baby were waiting for us and put on quite a show, allowing Nicholas to photograph them.

We spied bees, hives that have always been there but that we had never paid much attention to -- except, perhaps,  to steer a bit clear of them.

And a familiar branch, one that each of them has climbed on during apple festivals and art shows and after nature classes.  This was the place of a rousing three child spontaneous playing of The Cup Song, Julia on vocals, the boys as back up singers, following her lead.

After a trip home for lunch, we spent most of the day, with breaks to garden, breaks to eat popcorn, and breaks to read library books, and breaks to create a card for Grammie...

Elliott's first chance to wear the veil and check the feeders...

For the rest of the day?  We played badminton.

We played badminton from lunch until bedtime.  We play badminton until it got too dark to actually see the birdie.

We played actual badminton by the rules, and we played silly badminton, which included some kind of elaborate system that involved Elliott crouching under the net and running all creaturish onto Nicholas' side to snatch the birdie should it fall to the ground...if he was tagged...or tickled by Nicholas...he was to return to the other side, and had to leave behind the birdie.  Well, it was complicated.  And I did not really understand the rules.  Julia and I played sideways badminton: badminton just between us on one side of the net, when the tussling and tagging got so out of control on the boys' side that we decided to play on without them.

But it was wicked fun.  And silly.  And we kept needing to stop and take a break when someone's feelings got hurt, or actual toes got hurt, or when I decided that all the bickering and tackling, and shouting about rule breaking was making it not fun anymore.  We were settling into each other, jostling and tussling within our relationships with each other, as we remembered our summer selves.

I thought of summer nights of my childhood, whacking the birdie back and forth with my brother, and watching the bats seemingly trying to snatch the birdie away from us...

We went straight from badminton to PJs to toothbrushing to Grandpa Green to Infinity and Me and then to bed.

Julia said she did not understand Infinity and Me.  I said I thought it might be about children having big questions that are hard to answer and then realizing that big questions do not seem so overwhelming, so unsettling, when you have someone you love right next to to you...looking up at the stars with you...

She said: oh.

An imperfectly perfect first day of summer. With so much more to come.

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