Friday, June 10, 2016

Countdown to Summer

The countdown to summer vacation is on at my house, and it is on in earnest. Maybe it is because May slid into June through a near-constant string of sunshine. Or because the California cousins will be here before my New Hampshire kids are even done with the school year. Perhaps it’s that my two 3rd graders spent several spring days mired in standardized testing, which can cause even the most ardent of students to bemoan school.

Whatever the reason, this year my kids have known exactly how many school days are left at any given time for the past few weeks. We’re almost there. A few more days. And here, on the cusp of summer, the anticipatory promise of all the good things that season should be is nearly overwhelming.

We’ve had an early taste of some of our favorite summer things already. A few years ago it snowed Memorial Day Weekend, and the kids built a snowman beneath the newly unfurled leaves of the maple trees in the front yard. This year, Memorial Day Weekend was a sweltering tease of the approaching season, and we took full advantage, packing a load of pre-summer fun into three little days. We did a quick loop up our favorite short hike, joined a friend posse to cool off at Echo Lake, and took our first dip of the year in the Ham Branch.

Since then we’ve added trips to the tennis court, pedaled through our family’s favorite bike ride, and opened our mini-golf season. We have broken out popsicles and ice cream on the front porch. The lawn has been mowed several times. The fire pit is ready for s’mores and socializing. The garden is in – mostly, anyway – and I can almost taste those first delicious peas, even though they’re still a few weeks away.

And that is, perhaps, the impetus behind the countdown to summer: sweet anticipation of what we know is to come. Afternoons at the pool or the river. Feet in the sand at the beach or the dirt in the garden. Hikes up a few taller mountains, perhaps, or exploring new bike trails through the woods. Impromptu soccer games in the front yard. The rush of cooling air from soaring through back-and-forth arcs on the backyard swings. The twinkling magic of a million fireflies flickering through the field and of a gazillion stars overhead.

With all of these things on the horizon, the two summer events my kids say they’re most looking forward to are The Cousins and The Cape.

The first crew of cousins arrives from California during my kids’ last week of school. There are certain traditions we share with them during each annual visit – a hike up Bald Knob, a paddle around Long Pond, trips to the river my brothers and I cooled off in when we were kids, evenings by a backyard fire. The second set of cousins comes from Tennessee later in the summer, instigating gatherings with the other side of the family – and lots more fun.

The other most-highly anticipated week of the summer is our annual pilgrimage to Cape Cod. This will be the fifth year my children have journeyed from the quiet mountains of home to the crowded beaches of the Cape. During those years we have settled into favorite beaches, ice cream haunts, and mini golf courses. It helps, of course, to have friends who live down the street and are happy to play tour guide for the week we are there, ferrying us to places only the locals know. Each year we find at least one new place to explore.

That trip, though, is still many weeks in the future, many summer experiences down the road. For now, the full promise of summer sits just out of reach. It will be here soon enough. A few more days of reluctant early mornings and the confines of school days. A few more days to cross off the calendar. The countdown is on; summer will be here in 3-2-1.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her Blog: Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the June 10, 2016 edition of the Littleton Record.

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