In the Summertime
The summer—when I was younger—was a feeling. It was a shiver of anticipation that was gone before I could fully appreciate it. I can still sort of remember how it felt…sometimes when I smell an old perfume or hear a bit of some live version of a song I’d listen to on repeat. It was something coming…freedom, or the lazy/guilty feeling of lying in the sun on a weekday, knowing that this wasn’t something I could do once my “real life” began.
It would be too obvious to say that now, as a mom on the other side of 40 years old, summer means something else. Of course it does. Of course the smell of sunblock no longer takes me to a towel on the sand but to a weaving—and increasingly temperamental—seven-and-a-half-year-old who refuses to let me spray him down before a day of camp. Of course the promise of a glass or two of rose at the end of the day (back then it would have been a vodka lemonade or even farther back a Bud Light) feels delightful at first and then worrisome—will I feel it tomorrow? Will it wake me up at 3 a.m. like drinking seems to do lately?
But there’s another feeling that comes to me in summertime these days that has the same fleeting tingle; the same sense of this won’t last forever. The seven-and-a-half-year-old who whips around my house throwing a baseball at the wall and trying to catch it in his mitt—succeeding maybe 70% of the time but getting better, who’s always bored and always hungry, it seems, when we’re home together, who inspires my anger too quickly when he forgets to say “please” or “thank you” or whines that he “never gets anything” (even when he just got something), will occasionally fall asleep watching tv next to me in my bed and look so sweet—so much like the toddler who only wanted to fall asleep next to me. Who only wanted to hug me and be carried everywhere by me. And he’ll occasionally—really hardly ever these days—instinctively reach for my hand when we’re crossing a street—something he’d do without thinking and without fail even just a year ago—and when he inevitably realizes what he’s done he’ll pull it away because he’s “too old to do that anymore” or “someone might see and think he’s a baby” and I’ll make some joke about how he used to ALWAYS hold my hand and he’ll roll his eyes and I’ll feel it—that feeling that everything is changing all the time.
And just as this summer brings yet another revision of my ever-evolving definition of mothering, it also brings yet another revision of my own self-concept. He needs me less—that is true. Maybe he needs me even less than I think he needs me. And each morning after I wave goodbye to the glare of his camp bus’s windows as it pulls away, I find myself pausing on my driveway in the sunshine, knowing that the structure and substance I increasingly seek is less and less found inside my front door.