The Longest Summer

From the age of 6, summer meant going to "camp." The camp, for us, was a small rented cabin on a lake about 5 hours drive away. It was a heaven for kids, with a big field to run in, a (mostly) sandy beach, a stoney point to break your toes on, and bigger neighbor kids to chuck you in the lake when you got out of hand (which you sometimes did just because you were getting hot, but couldn't summon the courage to jump off the dock yourself).

As the days got longer, it became a tradition each year to make a countdown calendar to the day when we would make the trip. Each day, we'd cross off another rectangle, ritually bringing us one day closer to blast off. I still have the vivid memory of crossing off a day early in June and thinking that the 25 remaining boxes represented an apparent forever. But they would eventually all fall and be crossed off.

As we moved into the single digits, the living room would start shrink. Boxes and boxes of dry goods, games, summer clothes (in case it was a warm summer), cool weather clothes (in case it was a cold, rainy summer), toys, blankets, cake mixes, yarn (Mom wouldn't sit if she couldn't knit), books, and other paraphernalia would start to appear. The stacks would grow until a small labyrinth was formed that you had to navigate to get to the furniture.

In the final days, the labyrinth would suddenly dissolve, and then would come THE DAY. Sometimes it was the first day after school, but often it was even sooner. We would have strict instructions not to get on the bus on that last day of school. Instead, we'd walk out to find the orange and white Volkwagon Microbus packed to the roof with supplies. My brother and I would squeeze into what little remaining passenger space there was and establish our inviolable boarder, usually one of the creases embossed into the hot, sticky vinyl of the seat. The dog, of course, respected no boarders and could move freely, radiating heat and fur upon the citizen of whichever country she chose to settle in. Fortunately, she usually chose a spot on the floor.

We'd stop at Dunkin Donuts for provisions. The kids would get a variety box of Munchkins. Over the first leg of the drive, the average albedo of the contents would quickly increase as the chocolate reserves were mined to exhaustion. Mom would get a coffee. It would keep her awake, but also be a source of complaint for the next half hour. Dunkin was not known for the quality of their coffee in those days.

This summer ritual has been on my mind a lot recently. It's not just that PP finishes first grade today. My job is also ending today. There's a lot of things to worry about here: will we make ends meet on one income? Will I go nuts home alone every day? Can I really do all the things that I told myself I could do if I just had the time? There's no more excuses for failure.

On the other hand, it also feels a lot like those days of counting down to the takeoff toward the freedom and open air of summer. I choose to focus on that right now. Let's see how this goes. You can expect to hear more from me here. Ping me if I start to sound like I'm coming unhinged.

And no. Yelling at the woodchuck in a tree doesn't count. It IS called a ground hog for a reason, after all.