Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mid-Summer Festival

     A dear friend thoughtfully mused this week that we have reached the mid-point of the summer.  We first met thirty years ago (Wait?!  WHAT?!!!!)  when we worked together at summer camp. Camp people understand the fleeting magic that is summer.  They gather from all over the place each year for about ten weeks to create an entire vibrant community that dissolves on Labor Day, almost as if it never existed, until the next summer returns.  At the camp we worked at, this midway point of the season was actually celebrated annually with the "Mid-Summer Festival."

Photos courtesty of G'Wood Old School

     I haven't thought about the Mid-Summer Festival in years, but from the vantage point of mid-summer in my middle-age,  I'm thinking that maybe it is exactly what I need.  I need a week of old-fashioned summer fun that celebrates the glories of the season.  I need barbecue and horseshoes and watersports and campfires and music and night skies and the company of the folks that bring me joy. I need to take the time to be amazed by the wonders of the natural world, and appreciative of the abundant blessings that have been poured over my life.

    Now, don't get me wrong.  My summer has been absolutely lovely.  I've logged lots of miles on my bike.  The kayaks and canoe have hardly had the chance to dry off before I'm paddling off again.  I've eaten well, spent quality time with folks I love, and celebrated successes.  I have plans for more hijinks in the coming weeks. I've been  acting like a kid.

It's not my activity that has been lacking.  It is my attitude.

     Back in my summer camp days, I could inhabit the magic that is summer vacation even when doing the less than delightful tasks of  bringing the overfilled slop bucket of food waste out to the pig  farmer's bin, or comforting a vomiting 8-year-old, or helping a special needs adult get her false teeth set in her mouth.  Maybe it was the ignorance of my youth, but I could carry on with the work without losing sight of the joys that come from playing in the woods all summer.  In hindsight, I realize that it is the only way I could have done the job at all, let alone for summer after summer.  The work was hard, often gross, and paid very little. 

And I loved every minute of it.

     These days, I find myself caught up in the fine print of life.  I'm fussing over dog fur tumbleweeds that seem to be taking over the house.  The unfolded laundry on my arm chair is driving me to distraction.  The looming deadlines at work are making me anxious. There are all those back-to-school appointments to schedule. Not to mention, there are actual difficulties with the folks I love facing financial problems, health care issues, unexpected loss, ongoing grief... 

Instead of living in that place of joy, I find that I escape to that place as a reprieve from my life. 

     I need to find a way to get back to my summer camp mode.  I'm declaring this coming week as my own personal Mid-Summer Festival, where I will see if I can intentionally move back into that joyful place to live.  I know it is not going to be anything at all like the Mid-Summer Festival of my youth.  I don't want it to be. (I'm way too out-of-shape to do backflips off of the dock into the lake, for starters.)  I do want to become more mindful of how I am moving through my days, though.  


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Charting a Different Course

Thing 2 is on a roll.

     He's been at his job for a full month now.  He's learning the ropes.  He's earning the praises of his supervisors.  He's getting paid. It's all good stuff.  He's also overcome a paralyzing amount of fear to even walk through the doors as the New Guy those first few days.  He's figured out how to get himself home every day. He's reconfigured his social life to make sure he gets to bed early enough. (He starts work at 4 AM daily.)  He's adjusted his medication schedule. 

He's really doing it.

     I don't think my son believed he actually could. If I'm being honest, I'm not sure I believed he actually could.  I'm am so very delighted to be proven wrong.  

And that's not all.

     On his own, he went to the bank with his first paychecks and opened a checking account.  He went to HR to complete the paperwork to have his future paychecks directly deposited into that new checking account. He went to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and got his learner's permit.   Did I mention he did this on his own? 

     Maybe you aren't impressed.  He is nearly 22-years-old after all. None of these accomplishments are earth shattering.  All of his classmates are way beyond this. Hell, his own sister, Thing 1, managed all this as a teenager.  I get it.  I do. See, I had a gut-punched moment a few weeks ago, when a neighbor boy from my son's class in high school came by to show off his new sports car that he paid for with the money he earned from his prestigious internship.  He starts his senior year at business college on top of the world. I've known this boy since he was in middle school. He's a dope, the way that all young men are at that age. Yet, here he is succeeding all over the place.  And for a few days after that, I was wrecked, absolutely wrecked, because they weren't my boy's successes, too.

     Here's the thing, though.  I cannot compare my son to the other boys from his class. There is no getting around the fact that my son has significant mental health issues that make a traditional trajectory into adulthood impossible. That's just how it is.  I am blessed to have friends who also have kids who need to take different routes through their lives who remind me that I'm not alone. When one makes a tuna sandwich for his mother, when another plays baseball in between visits to his cardiologist, when one makes eye contact and initiates conversation with someone, it's the equivalent of that paid internship. We have shared plenty of rough days when there were medical crises and academic set backs. So it is only right that together we rejoice in our children's victories. They may not be a big deal to other parents, but given what we know our kids have overcome to earn them, they are a huge deal to us.

     And I am relentlessly optimistic.  My boy is on his way. He is working really hard to manage his anxiety so that he can move out on his own. He, himself, has discussed an ambitious "at the beginning of the school year" date for having his own apartment.  College is not off of his--or my--list. There is typical young man talk about getting into a band. (Oh how I would love to see him playing music again, truth be told.)  There are so many opportunities available for my son. 

The road doesn't dead end for him.  We just don't have the whole map unfolded yet.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

More Experiments in Time Travel

I think this summer is making me younger. 

     I'm serious. When the spring rains finally ended and my yard bloomed, something happened to me.  It was subtle at first--the volume on the car radio slowly got louder. I came home from work and announced that we were going to the ice cream place for dinner. Before you know it, here I am leaving work to drive straight to the lake house, go from there to a party, from there to a campground in Maine and stay on the beach until  all hours carrying on like I'm not a middle-aged mother of three, and THEN get up at 3:00 AM to drive to work. 

     It is all reminiscent of my Summer Tour years, when I'd work a few days then travel from city to city to see a series of concerts, getting home in time to get cleaned up before returning to my classroom full of three-year-olds.  I'd teach all week, waitress a few nights, maybe, then hit the road again.  Niagara Falls, Washington, DC, Philly...Life was a grand adventure  and I had the boundless energy of youth to take it on.

    Time passed and I grew up.  I married My Persoal Chef (bless him, he followed me around the northeast for one summer when he was first chasing me), we had these incredible kids, we bought a beautiful, hundred-year-old Queen Anne Victorian. I started going to bed at a reasonable hour and making sure that everyone had well-balanced meals and clean, folded laundry.  Concert trips became weekly trips to Home Depot and the grocery store. It's the natural order of life and it has been very satisfying.

Until the temperatures rose and the fireflies returned a few weeks ago.

     Suddenly, I'm searching YouTube for videos from Grateful Dead shows from the 80s.  A friend comes to visit and instead of putting on the kettle for tea, I find myself mixing a pitcher of Concoction (a fizzy melon, mint, lime and gin drink that tastes like summer vacation).  I laugh right out loud when my Other Favorite Nieces say something inappropriate instead of scolding them. In fact, I respond with an even more scandalous anecdote.  

I'm acting like a kid.

     No.  It's not a mid-life crisis.  I'm not going to buy a convertible, get a boob job, or run off with my secretary. There's just something about the summer that has loosened my tightly wound bits.

     During the rest of the year, you will never catch me playing air guitar in my Cubicle-of-Doom.  Or sharing a scorpion bowl with a twenty-something colleague at the end of a work day. Or going along with the young--really young--Cool Cousins who think it is an excellent idea to introduce their mothers to Cards Against Humanity.  Any other season and there is no way I'd be explaining to a retired librarian what causes blue balls.  Any other season, I'd be acting my age. Come to think of it, so would the Awesome Aunts. So maybe there's a genetic link to the time-space continuum I should explore. . .


Monday, July 7, 2014

Wibbley Wobbley Timey Whimey Stuff

     Once upon a time, when my mother turned 50, she looked up from her birthday dinner and exclaimed, "I just cannot believe that I have grandchildren in school."  Her mother, my Nana Joyce, shot back, "I look in the mirror and I see a two-seater, red convertible.  I look out the window and I'm waiting for the senior van.  I have GREAT-grandchildren in school."

     Until that moment, I had never seen Nana as anything but a grandmother.  To my eye, she was always, well, OLD.  It tickled me to think that she could imagine any other version of herself.  And then this happened:

     This past weekend, three generations of my extended family gathered to celebrate the college graduations of Thing 1 (her BS), my Mama's god daughter (her MSW), and my uncle (his AA--the associates degree, not the 12-step group).  It was everything you could ask for in such a gathering--plenty of incredible food, coolers full of cold drinks, games to play, perfect weather for being on the boat and splashing about in the lake, and so many things to laugh about.

     Late Saturday afternoon, I'm sitting on the front porch next to one of my dearest friends (she was matron of honor in my wedding to my Personal Chef twenty-four years ago).  We are chattering away and just enjoying the day.  I looked up to see our daughters chattering away and just enjoying the day.  And for a second there, I couldn't tell us apart.  I mean aren't we still the 22-year-olds having a blast at the lake? How can we be, if those two beautiful, smart young women are our daughters?

     In that instant, I understood what Nana meant.