Digging Summer

Digging Summer

diggingsummerThe most summery of projects ever to begin in our backyard spilled into fall. Here’s what happened: my two middle kids and their friend Kate—I think this was a going into second grader and two going into sixth graders—began to dig a hole. I do not remember why the hole needed to be dug or why the hole wanted to be dug. As they progressed—into the fall—with the dig, I’m not sure the original purpose retained relevance.

What I know is they dug. They dug for hours, and days, and weeks. The hole got pretty big. They could step into the hole, jump into it even.

In fact, sometime during the dig Kate had her annual check-up with her family doctor, who asked what she liked to do after school. “We’re digging a hole,” was Kate’s answer. The doctor, apparently, nodded her head, which was tilted as she did so. “It’s really cool. We are getting stronger digging the hole and we’re thinking about how to dig the hole. It’s really good for us.”

For the barn structure that happened to be perilously encroached upon by the hole, it was a different story. Eventually, digging ceased and the kids began to fill the hole back in at our insistence.

The hole digging project brought the classic Ruth Krauss written, Maurice Sendack illustrated book “A Hole is to Dig” to the forefront of my rotation with the toddler.

If a hole is to dig, then summer is prime time to dig holes. It’s when you can occupy yourself with things you cannot dream up during the school year crowds your days. On the “otherwise occupy yourself front” the former going into second grader now headed toward sixth grade has begun to teach himself card tricks via You Tube. He needed to go to sleep at a sleepover and learned self-hypnosis.

This kind of boredom has relegated my own work life to air quotes, because it’s a pretty direct relationship: kids out of school or camp means a work-from-home mama, unless she had fulltime babysitting, which I do not have at present, isn’t exactly a productive worker. That’s a luxury. I felt grateful for the opportunity to experience a little of my own boredom.

The officially unoccupied period is followed by a three-week arts camp and then he goes to his two-week overnight camp on a little farm in Pennsylvania where one year an entire afternoon was spent in focused attempt to break a resistant-to-breakage stick. There is no You Tube there. He’ll see old friends of the human variety there and the two Alpacas and other farm animals, including a (new) calf, and the farm’s dog and a cat or two.

On the “more than that” front, there can be the wonderful, varied treasure box that is camp. This week, while one starts his groovy three-week arts camp for 11-16 year-olds, the little girl is at its polar opposite: a camp with required t-shirts and backpacks. Beyond polar opposite to her orderly experience is the camp where my 16 year-old is working all summer. That camp works like this: put kids in a van, and go off on adventures that help you get to know the land where you live. There’s hiking and river walking and just experiencing what’s in the Valley (including ice cream)—and in the course of that you might learn about bugs or birds or native plants or rail trails or power plants.

The theme that ties the very different camp experiences, including the difference between camper and counselor, is this: summer is for stretching—and when you think about it, to handle boredom makes you stretch (and perhaps, dig or truly be amused with yourself as you learn card tricks). To handle whatever camp offers (Spanish lessons or carrying three kids’ backpacks on a hike, take your pick) makes you stretch. By gosh, one kid needs new sneakers because his feet have grown and the small girl stretched out such that she’s suddenly shed some vestige of the smaller girl she was before. You can see, when you look at her, where she’s headed. Summer is for that, too. You have time to grow, even literally.

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