One of the reasons I love summer is that I love the idea that every kid should have a magical childhood summertime place, where he or she is free to roam, explore, make up intricate stories with friends, play from morning to night with no reason to stop except to eat and go the bathroom.
I don’t think a kid needs much to have those kinds of memories. Some of my sweetest occurred on long weekend camping trips (in actual tents) with other families from my church every year. We spent the longest, fullest days of my childhood in the woods, thinking up games with sticks and old cans. We made up complicated plays involving fake blood made from ketchup. We learned (even the girls) to pee in the woods. And at night, we ate food cooked over an open fire (ground beef, potatoes and onions in foil) and smores for dessert. Then we sat in the chilly mountain night in lawn chairs around the campfire until our parents sent us to our sleeping bags. I’ll never forget the soothing noises of our parents and their friends telling stories and laughing next to the crackling fire as we fell asleep.
I thought of all those things last week in Maine with Chris and our boys. I mentioned yesterday that Chris’ great-grandfather bought the land his family’s house sits on (overlooking the waves crashing on huge boulders) more than 60 years ago. And he slowly built a cozy summer home in that spot. It’s got so many nooks and crannies after years of being added to and adjusted that it’s just about the most charming cabin I know. And best of all, it has a deck that looks straight out into the Atlantic.
When I’m there, I can never get enough of it. The sun starts shining through the windows at 4:30 am there and by the time we’re up the air is warm and soft. My favorite thing is my first cup of coffee in the morning on the deck. Every morning, the ocean is still there! I’m sort of shocked every time I discover it.
Months before, August’s friend Elena had sent him a video in which she sang an original tune about how much fun Maine was going to be. He was in love. It’s amazing what the Internet can do for preschool friendships. He was so pumped to hang out with her and she lived up to all the hype in his head. They played and played and played. They talked to each other in kid conversations that I couldn’t stand not memorizing. They pushed the “Zeroizer” button on the control panel my father-in-law built into the beautifully restored playhouse (that looks like a lighthouse).
The whole week I felt such a grateful welling up. Looking out the window of our room while I rocked T-Rexy, watching my husband in his blue striped Mad Men-esque swim trunks shooting a water hose at August and his friends on a green lawn, eating late night lobster meals with our friends after the kids were sound asleep, reading Tender is the Night with my girlfriends and talking about it while we sat in the sunshine, a late night campfire on the rocks by the water, a small town Fourth of July parade with our kids, hikes, swims, watching our kids eat their meals together. It was the sweetest kind of trip.
One night when August was going to bed I said to him, “Did you know that Daddy has come here his whole life and slept in this bed when he was a little boy? And did you know that you get to come here your whole life too?”
The next day our boy said to his father: “Daddy, I’m going to come here again and again and again. My whole life!”
This is a thing worth being thankful for..