Too Soon Finished

Finally summer, when young parents push strollers through mellow evenings; laughter drifts from fenced backyards; and rainbows of green enhance our lives. Under a summer sun, I’m less obsessed by how well I sleep or household tasks that need my attention. I stand taller, breathe easier and open more readily to spontaneity and stray dogs.

Recently, I encountered a friend at the post office: a lovely lady who exceeds me in wisdom, grace and years. “Summer has arrived,” she said, “I love this time of year because it makes me feel young again.”

“How did you spend your summers when you were young?” I asked, responding to her happy smile.

“Helped with chores around our place, mostly, but when I had time, I explored: studied anthills, tried to catch butterflies, searched the night sky for falling stars. Nature fascinated me. I paid attention to even the smallest things in my world.”

Later, I thought about her words and recalled my excitement when the bus pulled away from the elementary school and my friends and I chanted: “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.” School and winter were vanquished; summer would never end; and the rituals of childhood could begin.

To test our stamina, my siblings and I tried to walk barefoot in the heat of the day down our dirt lane and along the gravel road it met without skittering or complaining. We timed one another to see who was fastest riding Bob’s bike to the mailbox and back. Pumping furiously, I sometimes misjudged a rut, crashed and then proudly displayed scraped elbows and knees.

We dove or belly-flopped into the chlorine-heavy water of Arrowhead Pool and swam as far underwater as we could, carefully marking one another’s progress. Sitting atop our horse, we took pride in not holding onto each other as the oldest guided it along country roads framed by crops.

On July 4th, we played with cap guns because we liked the smell of burned caps and ate lunch in Grandma Hall’s backyard, saving the heart of our slice of watermelon to eat last and ridiculing cousins who gnawed their final bite from the rind.

We held dandelions under one another’s chins to see who liked butter and split the bottom of their stems with our tongues, sucking them until they curled like a slinky. When my friends visited, we plucked petals from daisies to discover if he loved us or loved us not and made dolls from hollyhock blossoms that we threw at Bob when he wouldn’t leave us alone.

As one summer day of my childhood melted into another, I didn’t realize how quickly my freedom to experience and explore would be replaced by the jobs and responsibilities of adulthood.

I didn’t know that when I grew old, the months of June, July, and August would begin to spin by like carousel horses running wild. Now my summers race by so fast I worry I won’t have time to savor them — to store away the smell of roses, the feel of dancing breezes, the sight of goldfinches jostling on a bird feeder and the shouts of children riding their bicycles pell-mell to the pool.

Like my lovely friend, I find summer glorious. I only wish it could slow to the pace it kept when I was young.