It was a summer of exploring wild plants in the garden, standing like statues to make perches for butterflies, playing in forts and tents, rollerskating and bike-riding, dressing in capes and masks to bring superheroes to the neighborhood, riding the train downtown in a sea of grown-ups, swimming in pools as mermaids and sea creatures, burning old sticks in the firepit, and late-night lightning bug chases.
We sang in the kitchen, in the car, in the yard. We made art and staged plays, learned about the Beatles and the Eagles and Pink Floyd. We got messy and laughed and yelled and made a lot of noise. So much noise.
I love the simplicity of Summer: the long, deep breaths without a schedule, the last-minute movies and ice cream runs, the freedom that only comes when routine is wiped away.
Summer is extra-ordinary time, outside the ordinary–when the everyday is magic for kids pretending to be explorers or zombiehunters or aliens or fairies. And summer nights are the the golden treasures of childhood, when moonlit nights add to the magic. During the rest of the year, night is regulated–managed by parents with bedtime routines and homework vigils, but in Summer the night is broken open like the Undiscovered Country.
As adults, when we have children in or around our lives, we get a hint of it–the magic of childhood summer. It radiates off the kids, a glorious reminder.
So when the children finally roll into their beds, too tired to complain and exhausted from the bright, messy, fun of their imaginations, that’s when adults get their chances to enjoy the flipside of summer night magic. With a cup of coffee or a glass of wine on the patio, we can sit and savor the stillness and silence, smiling from the earlier antics and remembering our own twilight bubbles and midday puddle-jumping.
Then it ends, and it seems to end just in time–when the children are on the edge of irritation, when games lose their magic, when exploration seems like work, when the circle of friends has grown too small for new ideas. School becomes the new thing on the horizon. The excitement of new teachers and reconnecting with friends becomes more appealing than the time spent hanging out with mom or dad. The wheel of the year turns, and the children rediscover the joy of recess and the treasure of weekends.
All three of my children went back to school this week. We got back from our family holiday on Saturday night and bid farewell to the freedom of summer: the mornings of sleeping in, the late nights playing in the backyard, no homework to do or nag about, no afterschool activities to schedule around. Freedom replaced with routine, play replaced with structure.
The official start of the season is a few weeks away, but for the kids, Fall began on Monday. The mornings are more hectic as sleep schedules are adjusted, and the kids are a bit cranky as they once again have homework.
But as the temperatures cool and the kids go to bed a little earlier, these beautiful late summer nights have a magic all their own.
I hope that you have a beautiful summer’s end.