Sofie keeps asking me, “Mom, is it still summer?” I tell her it is, technically speaking, — that although school has started and though I wore my favorite bomber jacket to work today, technically yes, it’s still summer for another week and a half.
I’ve been reluctant for this season to go; perhaps that’s why I’m still stretching it out for as long as the calendar with let me truthfully tell her yes, it’s still summer. I love fall. I love everything about it—the trees changing colors, the fresh air in my lungs as I breathe a sigh of relief at our return to routine, the soups and breads, and cozy sweaters and jackets that accompany them in warming me on a cool, crisp day. I love every bit of it, except one thing. I hate saying goodbye to summer. And this summer, especially so.
When summer began we raced our way through each week with play dates every other day and the sprinkler on the days in between. We gardened and made popsicles and coffee-dated at the beach and play-dated at the spray-park. We soaked up every bit of what makes summer summer.
And then the smoke came and there was a month where we didn’t go many places because our eyes burned and our lungs choked on the smoke. But also in that month was something else, something so beautifully different about the second half of our summer, the reason I’m so reluctant to let it go— the bikes strewn across the lawn. This has been my favorite part about summer; something I didn’t think I’d see for a very long time. Yet there it was, like a mirror that reflects the not-so-distant past.
Not so long ago it was our bikes on this lawn and us playing hide ‘n seek. We owned this turf. It was our open-aired, un-gated playground for our uninhibited imaginations. We played ’til we were called home for dinner and then we played some more ’til we could no longer see well enough for the seeker to find.
Those summers were the best of our lives — or so we told ourselves; I was sure it was true.
We lived in the moment, for the moment, moment by moment, in the moments between meals when the world was ours. It came so naturally that we never could have imagined we’d soon struggle to treasure the very moments that once gave our lives meaning. That as adults it would become about making it to the next meal, the next break, the next deep breath, making it through each moment of every day instead of relishing in each moment that made us feel alive.
We as adults are on the same earth, breathing the same air, but we breathe in differently now, taking deep breaths and exhaling sighs. No longer do we exhale laughter and imaginative stories. We left them in our childhood along with the unwavering thrill of a summer day.
These bikes on the lawn don’t belong to me and my fellow cops ‘n robbers, but they belong to wild hearts, hearts as wild as ours once were. They belong to the ones who own this turf, who inherited from us. As we passed into adulthood, leaving behind our spirited youth, so these wild ones took our place and claimed it for their own.
This last month of summer brought it to my attention — the beauty of childhood found in a carefree summer day. It was the giggles and the “eenie, meeny, miny, moes” and the counting to ten while their friends all hid. It was the conversations with 8-year-olds while they lunched at our house or asked to pick plums from our backyard and the playing catch and the climbing of trees. But mostly, it was the bikes strewn across the lawn.
As fall draws nearer and the darkness closer, I’m reminded of all the changes that will come as the leaves start changing colors. In Seattle this means the rain comes and neighbors stay inside. It means I won’t see bikes on the grass or hear giggles through the open window for much longer.
It’s a temporary shift as we put on our winter coats and hibernate until spring, but this year it doesn’t feel so temporary. Yes, summer will come again, but in this next year it’s most likely that one of us will move away. We’ll be looking for a home of our own and our friends will be looking for a different home to fit their growing family. Oh, what a bittersweet end to this beautiful season we’ve had.
Soon we’ll have a different lawn and different wild hearts to know and adventure with. This summer will always have a special place in my heart though, for it was the first. The first summer where my girls found independence and friendship and adventure and knew that every second of it was truly as perfect as it seemed; the one where they lived in each moment and for the moment and moment by moment; where the thrill of summer was imprinted on their wild hearts.
This is the one I’ll remember, too, the one I’ll write on my own heart: the one with the bikes strewn across the lawn. And I’m sure that’s why I’m so reluctant to let it go.
So, yes, dear Sofie, it’s still summer. And it will still be summer until September 22nd, or for as long as we can hold onto it. But when the leaves change color, and when we stop opening the windows to feel the summer breeze, and when we start counting down the days ’til the pumpkin farm, — there will be beauty there, too, and I know we’ll find it, together, your wild heart and mine.