We wake, when we wake; we eat cookies, watermelon, ice cream, peaches; we do not plan our days so much as we observe them, watching with slow eyes as they slump out like a deflated exercise ball before us, whop, thlupp, mummm... The TV is on more than I strictly allow, and while they are watching it and I have finally begun a sentence that sings sentiently, one yells, "can I please have more toast?!" and another, another. Toast dispersed, I am hungry too, the dishes should be washed and the chickens begin to bwaawwkk. When I come in, more toast is required. With butter, and honey, and cinnamon.
So the days go. We do not swim, or picnic, or hike; we do not camp, or boat, or barbecue. We do not visit the library once. We walk through the alley, one day, and we pick blackberries. We find tart apples, and hops, and little rocks, and a ripe tomato, and figs and Asian pears and grapes long from ripe, and fennel, fennel, fennel. I want to grasp this under the arms, lift it high and swing it around in the air -- but it is over as soon it has begun, the boys are running every which way and soon they are out of sight, gone, down the alley hill, across the street. Home, we find them, three, at the computer, playing a game about jumping and bopping.
How much it is, how much, to let go of the image that I have somehow concocted, to let go of the design of summer as it might be. There might be tall pine trees, a cold stream, cooking on a grate blackened from use and fires built inexpertly. There may be cabins with bunk beds, a cafeteria, capture the flag. There should be picture books, concerts in parks, old blankets laid on grass, picnic tables, watermelon slurped, not sitting with legs spread wide on the kitchen floor, but in rows of cousins and lifelong friends.
When I see summer and childhood, I see sleeping bags and mountains and huckleberries, running in cool grass over wide lawns, chasing children we meet only when the days are long. I see the sky at night when it is dark, wholly dark, stars so close you blink, blink again, to clear your head of the fancy you could reach one, jump, touch it with your fingers. I see us looking at one another, eyes wide, knowing this is something we'll never, ever forget. A bear. A geyser. The very mountain top. An airplane ride.
This has not been our summer. I have wasted time; I have missed opportunities; I have slung darts at the target badly and without practice, brain dulled with too little sleep and too much leisure. All I have are these: a cold hour at the beach, robot arms stacked of canning rings, blackberry leather made, free, words that follow on behind words too slowly, too slowly, books piling up too fast, too fast. I apologize to my boys, who deserve a summer from my imagination, not one to which I have given permission too easily, 'yes' without thinking first, without asking a followup question.
How could I have allowed this? How can it be over, almost, all but the running and the scrambling and the routine trudge back to routine? I cannot say, I can only give myself permission to open my eyes, cock back my head and look at the stars through the city lights. Look, says Everett, the first star.
It is not the first, it is nearly 11 p.m., but I say, oh! and I smile with my voice, and go back to my canning pot, sorry, I say inside, sorry, and reach for the ice cream.