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Summer Roses, Summer Breaths


White Fence with Roses

I began this summer with a list—and mostly, a wish to take an internal pressured sense of hurry and worry down a few notches. Things had built up, some work, some family, some general “stuff” of life around me and at home. Essentially, I needed to rediscover how to take some deep breaths.

Summer is not over, but the sense that it’s waning has overtaken. Cue: school supply lists, other people’s “first day of school” photos, and the way everything shifted a little cooler, the golden light at certain times when before it was brighter, and whiter.

We have a little bit of time to hang in “family” mode ahead, but not so much. We have some of those back to school things to do, and we have a block party to throw. The time between now and the next will fill up quickly. Like everyone around me, the way I look at all that’s surrounding me is different: the world has pushed in, too, and brings unease and sadness and disbelief and even horror. I listen to the birds chirp sometimes, and feel I should let other worries in more. Yesterday, however, I admit that I shut NPR off in the car. My push and pull to get to deep breaths can’t always involve NPR.

Meantime, there are the summer highlights (the “roses” in the speak of gymnastics camp), like how awesome it is to see small kids glimpse my sixteen-year-old around town and gaze up at him with “my camp counselor” eyes. Certainly, the two weeks of overnight camp for the eleven-year-old-boys were rosy.

Last night, the camp my Saskia attends this week had a Family Night. As she showed me around (I was the proxy for family, as the rest of the crew scattered other places) with her friend, Mattea, who had some family in tow, the first stop was Mermaid Cove (or rock? Or point?). Anyway, the girls climbed on a couple of big rocks by the lake and explained that if you see shimmering on the water that’s where the mermaids are. I can’t tell if this is their idea or the camp’s. I think it was fed via camp (as we are deep into the television program H2O whatever the conduit, mermaids are “in” with us, especially Australian mermaids). Suddenly, Saskia was IN the water. This was an accident, which stunned us all (it was very shallow, but she did manage to get very wet). “Climb out,” I told her—and stunned, she did. Tears followed.

Her ankle was scraped and her shoes (and pants and most of her shirt) were soaked, and her pride was bruised. We skipped the rest of the walkabout and the campfire. We went to the lodge to nab her backpack and painted rocks. In the van, we wrested the wet clothing off and zipped her into her sweatshirt for the ride home. By the time we’d gotten there, she was no longer teary. She drank some milk and calmed down.

“You handled a hard thing so well,” I said as we reached the car. “I’m really proud of you.”

Having been a parent for nearly nineteen years, you might think I’d have known that’s the most important part—not the missing of the s’mores. I have to confess, it may have taken me all this time. In that, perhaps the answer to why the leisurely route through childrearing isn’t boring for me, not at all (there is, between this six-and-a-half year-old girl and her oldest brother about a dozen years).

To learn how to handle hard things could fall under “life lessons,” obviously. By hard, I really don’t mean bad, or all bad. I really mean something different, something about the ability to see “hard” more with prism in mind—how does light reflect and how to do you see the various sides and still breathe? That’s the lesson I went for this summer. I can’t say it’s felt relaxing, this space that had me trying to make room for breaths. It’s certainly not a bucket list item. But I am breathing, raggedly perhaps. And smiling, and comforting, and still in search of a good answer to: “Was it a good summer?”

The short answer: “Yes.” How about yours?

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This entry was written by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

About the author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain, Child Magazine, and Salon, amongst others. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

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