It’s that threshold to summer moment. The other day I walked, not to go anywhere, simply to enjoy the air, and composed haiku in my head. I won’t tell you how long it took, although I will admit if you saw me walking yes, I did count on my fingers. Tulips, lilacs, gone/Peonies, irises, go./Next, summer. Roses.
With summer, comes a sense of a season set apart. Without school—and here in a college town, that’s a profound difference not just in a household with school age kids but everywhere—the energy shifts. There are longer days, swimming pools to dip into and ice cream to lick outside. There’s dirt and sweat and a sense that we are supposed to have fun (“supposed to?”). For the past four summers on my personal blog I’ve created a Summer Wish List. I will do it again before the solstice. It’s a little wishes, a little resolution, a little what’s great to do in the corner of New England where I live, and a little bit of a note to myself.
My family, I think it’s safe to say about this particular year, is maxed out on “supposed to.” The school year wasn’t easy for every person and there have been big adjustments, like Kindergarten (love, love, love, but still, epic adjustment). There were challenging work disappointments and frustrations. If I were to characterize our recent months, I’d say we did a pretty hefty amount of coping. So, I both feel the ways we could use the breathy delights of expansion—explore, enjoy, just… be elsewhere—and the balm of rest and relaxation. Even if I write a long list, the truer list will be short. The truer list will be about whatever makes us feel good day-to-day and feels restorative.
Also, on my list will be to read books. The little gal has begun to read (and I have the biggest writer-and-parent crush on Elephant and Piggie these days) and it’s a true delight to watch and listen to her determined efforts and reap the benefits of increased fluency daily. My fifth grader has to be pushed to read—and only sometimes, rarely, accepts the nudge. That’s in stark contrast to the eldest guy, who pretty much read his way through childhood. He retains a physical attachment to books; he reads them and carries them and keeps them. I’ve been very hands-off about reading. For the eldest, I stopped insisting he put the book down every single night at dinner (some nights, just not all of them) because he found such comfort in them. I have been hands-off in the opposite direction too because not every kid loves to read and that doesn’t mean the adult version will eschew reading. Still, with him, I’d like to find a way to reintroduce the idea that just maybe reading can be fun and relaxing and interesting.
And my memories of my bigger kids’ elementary school years included some great read aloud times, either as they ate dinner or at bedtime. I want to find ways to recreate that pleasure more consistently for my smaller gal, despite the frenzy that takes place when there’s more activity around us—and more screens. Because these days, books aren’t as omnipresent in the household as devices with screens (my laptop included), and so I realize it’ll take a little effort to change our family’s current culture—and summer seems to present itself as an opportunity for this.
An opportunity for me, too: I have used my writer hat as a push myself to read, as in read a book and then write about it. This turns out to be a reasonable incentive. The thing is, whether I have to fabricate a little prompt or not, once I’m reading it’s such a pleasant thing to do (duh, I always won the summer bookworm contests in elementary school).
Even if it doesn’t happen often, I am going to hold out an image of us at home, lazing around and reading on a rainy weekend afternoon. The image alone makes me smile. Whether I’ll succeed and what success really means to me is anybody’s guess. I don’t want to attach a number of books or amount of time allotted to reading. I don’t want this to exactly be a list item, a de facto chore. I do want to read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle one more time, though. That radish cure is something every kid should hear at least once no matter how dated Betty MacDonald’s cookie-serving neighborhood seems in 2014.