When this summer began, we ventured out into the backyard. Filled up the water table. Unearthed the shovels and buckets and boats. Ruby would tentatively check with in: “Can I touch this? Can I step in this puddle? Uh-oh…this is muddy… Um, I just got all wet!”
To which we would cheerily reply, “That’s OK! That’s what summer is for!”
It occurred to me, at some point, that summer is all about bending the rules. It’s not just the climate that makes us feel better. It’s the chance that we can go a little crazy—and in the words of Seal, “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy!”
Bedtime gets later, because blackout shades only do so much for that circadian rhythm, now set to 10 p.m. sunsets. Did you just have a hot-dog bun and some backyard raspberries for dinner? Oh well! William can sneak away for a few mountain bike rides or we eschew the kitchen table (or, being totally honest, our desks) for the front steps to eat our lunches or dinners.
She was thrilled by our response, and you know what? So was I. Summer is meant to be enjoyed, almost down to a visceral level. Watermelon juice running down your arms. Soft sand and cold water lapping at your toes. Squinty eyes from bright sunbeams. Warm skin and hair, combined with the scent of sunscreen—it’s intoxicating. There’s something deliciously rebellious about summer.
Every year, we venture north to my parents’ cabin—where, incidentally, I learned the art of summer rule-breaking—and bringing our children has been another level of awesome. Watching Ruby wade into the ice-cold lake, chase frogs, dig blissfully in the sand… she never asked for “toons” once, or melted down over a trivial slight.
There’s something about all that fresh air, the way the outdoors can excite the imagination and melt off stress. Eating grilled ribs and corn on the cob and watermelon and salad while still in a swimsuit. Venturing a breathtaking dip—literally—in the lake, cruising around in the boat to spy on the eagle’s nest…
These are the priceless moments, the ones we hope she (and eventually, Remy) remembers forever. To be a good steward of the environment, to get out and move your body, to take risks and get dirty, and to tumble into bed at night and fall asleep to the sound of loons calling.