This weekend I am INSANE with a blog conference and derby championships and the whole running back to nurse Cooper thing. Which means: you get a flashback post Saturday, Sunday, AND Friday. Lucky you! I promise to be back with new stuff and pretty pictures and smart things I learned at Blog Elevated. For now, I leave you with a post from the beginning of the summer—a great bookend now that we are at the end of the summer.
The thrum of cicadas pressed up against the screen windows, rich and obscenely loud. In the slim light of the fingernail moon, I could see the bristly limbs of Shenandoah pine forest. The cabin was still and dark, but filled with the tension of thirty girls, awake and waiting.
There it was: the faint strains of a pipe organ.
I wondered which of the counselors was down in the outdoor chapel, pounding on the pedals and keys of the great organ. We were supposed to believe that it was Sandy, the ghost of a long-dead camp cook. The only thing better than his Virginia barbecue had been his ability to coax songs from that organ. A framed photo of Sandy hung in the dining hall: a beaming black man in an apron, hands immersed in a metal mixing bowl. He had been real, even if his ghost was not. Every first Saturday at camp, his story was told, followed by an organ performance after lights out: a bit of ghostly magic.
The song was meant to frighten, but the tension eased from the room like a sigh. Sleeping bags rustled and metal bed springs creaked as we settled in for the night. Now we could sleep, to the strange lullaby of organ and insect song, as the campfire ghost story reached its conclusion.
“We want to swim, Mommy. Can we swim? Mommy? Mommy.”
“Mommy, can we swim?”
“Boys. Give Mommy a minute. Please. Go watch TV. Maybe we’ll swim when Daddy gets home.”
I caught Sawyer’s face then, as the exasperation in my voice shut down the excitement in his. He and Lincoln went obediently back to the TV, glassy-eyed and slack-jawed. I leaned against the edge of the counter, suddenly light-headed at the full impact of my words.
Summer was the season of ghost stories and magic, organ music through a pine forest. A wildness in my limbs, taking me from sedentary bookworm to hair-tangled barefoot runner and chaser of fireflies. The smell of charcoal grills and Strawberry Lip Smackers and bug spray, the tinny music of the ice cream truck. Falling asleep hard and fast with dirty knees and the promise of next day’s adventures.
Now Houston summer drops its weight on me with a sense of endlessness and hot suffering. With three small children and a husband traveling for close to a month of days, summer is something I limp through, complaining as I go.
My own memories I keep like a treasure, but my quick, irritable words have momentarily crushed the summer magic for my boys, fragile as the dried-up husk of cicadas we find on the oak trees. I am laid bare, seeing my own selfishness contrasting with the dizzying joy of summer when you are five.
I don’t want to be that mom.
The days will be long. Sometimes, we will have to wait for Daddy to swim. Many times I will wish for bed time and a cold beer. But I want to channel that dirty-kneed girl for a few months, crawl out from the weight of my summer dread and find again the joy. Or, at least, help my boys to find it. We will run barefoot, we will chase down the ice cream truck, we will catch fireflies.
It may take no small effort, but this summer I will be the camp counselor fingering the keys of an organ in the dark, making the soundtrack for my boys’ memory.
Now that fall is upon us (despite the still hot and humid Houston weather), I feel like I did okay this summer. I was sometimes the organ-player, keeping summer magic alive. And I was also sometimes the mom limping through long days and telling the boys they could watch one more episode of their favorite shows.
Now that it has come to a close, how was YOUR summer?