Updated: May 21, 2020
Like snoballs, summer always comes back.
I remember squirming in my desk as a kid on the last day of school, fixated on the second hand of the clock, and anticipating the burst of energy that would run through my body the second the bell rang and summer, sweet exhilarating summer, would announce its arrival. If I could bottle that feeling, I’d cure a number of ailments from anxiety to depression because, in that instant, possibility woke me. Twelve unscripted weeks lay ahead. How I’d fill them was entirely unknown but anything was possible because summer never hesitated for adventure. It was hope worth living for.
My last summer of possibility was after college, before I officially became a grown-up and May would move into June without so much as a thought. Then I had kids and eventually I was, again, presented with twelve blank weeks with which I had to fill the gaps between Nick Jr. and rounds of Chutes and Ladders. So I wrote a list of everything the little rugrats and I could do. On mornings when I hadn’t a clue, off came the list from the fridge. Soon I moved with the same stir of anticipation as when I was ten and conquering summers with wonder. Summer Annie had returned. I photographed all of that summer, from mud pies to hose wars, and made a memory book. Summer was back, just like the near 16 nectar snoballs I slurped.
The next summer, the kids wanted in on the list. It was silly with things like “hunt for dinosaurs in Audubon Park” but I was witnessing their embracing of possibility and I was seeing the spirit of summer through fresh eyes. Nowadays, writing the list announces summer and the weeks are just as trimmed with sentimentality and tradition as Christmas, if not more because the pressure is off. Summer isn’t intimidating, if you can get past your beach bod. The only thing that season has on me is a freedom that the other seasons slowly take. Accepting that is a prerequisite. Possibility is only visible to those who choose to see it. And I wonder how different the rest of the year would be if I did bottle summer’s secret. If only I could keep a bit of Summer Annie all year.
My favorite moment in summer is when I don’t know the weekday or the date. It’s like being in a vortex where time doesn’t exist. I finish chapters, start movies, and drive around the block until a favorite song finishes. We eat dinner whenever. The kids sleep when they’re tired. They wake when they aren’t. We watch beautiful sunsets from our balcony and listen to the drumming of the tree frogs. Summer Annie savors what she enjoys in life without the pressure of time.
Among the many nuisances of life, pairing socks is near the top of my list. Summer Annie has a strict “no socks” rule — except for fuzzy socks, of course. Unless we’re on a hike out of the city, flip flops lead the way. My whole look simplifies. Makeup is an afterthought. Messy buns are even messier. I lose the belts and the bold jackets and throw on the same handful of sundresses or shorts. Summer Annie doesn’t impress.
Saying, “No, thank you.”
Summer Annie suddenly has gumption. The draw to hibernate with books, Netflix binges, game nights, and patio drinks is too strong. I don’t obligate myself to what I shouldn’t. I actually listen to that little voice inside. Summer Annie considers her sanity with the utmost responsibility.
My children are feral in the summer, as am I. Routines restrict us enough the rest of the year. In summer, there is room to explore. What we discover is often more unforgettable than anything we learned the rest of the year. Summer Annie gives in to wandering and the roads less traveled.
I know enough to know that if I don’t spark the magic, I’ve missed the opportunity to ignite memories. I am the giver of my children’s traditions, and perhaps the best one I have to offer is to embrace the delicacy of childhood. One day, they’ll be just another grown-up working in July, and something, maybe a kid in flip flops riding his bike in a wet bathing suit with a gaggle of friends racing behind, will remind them of that sweet season when possibility ran through every second like energy. In that moment I hope they understand that possibility is always around the corner, no matter the season. We just need to break from the routine to see it.
It’s bittersweet how our summer lists have matured. Gone are dinosaurs, replaced with Pokémon Go, but the allure is still there – the anticipation that something great is coming. Summer Annie cries in August, mourning its end. If only I could realize that I never know what’s coming.
Possibility is as sure as snoballs. It never goes away for long.