There were signs all along, but I tried to ignore them. Things like all of the “first day of school” pictures posted on Facebook. Things like the first night we ate dinner outside and I needed to take off my flip-flops and put on my Uggs after the sun had set.
Then my friend called me with the bad news. “We missed it!” She proclaimed with sadness. “The pool closes tomorrow!” Our summer swim dates were over before we had a chance to say a proper, chlorinated, pink-skinned, tired toddler goodbye.
When the calendar says September 1st, the summer is over. I know we *technically* have something like 21 more days, but we all really know.
This evening I was looking out the window and I saw that our neighbor’s huge tree had a branch of yellow leaves. YELLOW. And I got that choke-y feeling in my throat.
As far back as I can remember I have been a summer girl. I have always gotten that giddy, high feeling when Spring came because it meant Summer was that much closer. I spent my childhood summers outside swimming, playing, catching bugs, and eating popsicles with tanned skin and bleached-by-the-sun hair.
When I became an “adult” I started to kind of hate summer. I hated it because I was stuck inside working through the whole dang thing. I would stare out my office window, longing for the days of teaching swim lessons and staying out late with friends. We would try desperately squeeze in as many hours as possible doing summer things, but it always seemed like the bad weather fell on weekends or we had a billion weddings every summer, so we never got a proper “enjoying” time.
And then there was last summer. I had a newborn. I was breastfeeding every two hours. I was trying to figure out how to work from home and take care of a baby and adjusting to my life taking a 180 degree turn. There were still weddings, but I had so little sleep and so much stress I barely remember them. When the summer crawled to an end, it was more like “phew, glad that’s over!” Now I could retreat into a land of covered skin and where staying on the couch all day was considered “cozy” instead of “lazy”.
But not this summer. This summer I had a toddler. I had green grass to sit on, sidewalk chalk to color with, bubbles to blow, and afternoons spent at the pool. I had trips to the Zoo, rides at the Fair, a backyard blow up pool, long drives with the windows down, and lots of park play dates. My skin was gold again and not pasty white. We planted flowers together and went on lots of dates. I conquered my fears and spent time in a swimsuit every week.
Then today, on the last day of summer, I went through more of Gia’s clothes she had outgrown. WARNING: I do not recommend doing this on a day you are already feeling weepy and the thought of a season ending. A metaphorical and literal season of my life was coming to a close.
Why do we get so sad saying goodbye to summer? Because it is a reminder there are cruel, icy months with little sun ahead? Because we know we are about to become Vitamin D deficient and Christmas shopping is just around the corner?
I think maybe because it is a reminder of life in general. Sweet things come, and then they go. Infants grow into toddlers who grow into children who grow into teenagers who grow into adults who grow into parents. Some years the watermelons are extra sweet, the peaches are extra juicy. Some seasons we get to spend basking in sunshine, and some we are forced to spend in the bitter cold
Because we never know what the future will hold, leaving a season is bittersweet. We don’t know what we are saying goodbye to permanently or just for another ride around the sun. This summer Gia loved her toucan shirt and mermaid jammies. Next summer those items will be much too small and will be resigned to the boxes that live in our attic. That pink toucan shirt won’t smell like sunscreen again and won’t see any more days in the hot sun or mud from her grandparent’s garden.
Because we do know that time keeps speeding up faster and faster and faster it makes the choke-y feeling in our throat stronger. When we realize next summer will never be this summer, when we realize there are amazing things ahead, but beautiful things left behind – those kind of realizations make this girl a little misty eyed.
Before Gia, my summers just sort of bled together. They came, they went, I knew they were coming back again. I might get a tiny bit sad because it meant months before I would see sundresses, sandals, and nectarines again, but overall I didn’t pay too much attention.
But now? The days are long, but the years are short: the truest saying I have ever heard as a mother. I blinked and Gia went from being a bundle of smiles and coos and immobility to a running, talking, laughing firecracker. I know when next summer arrives, she will be another completely new girl. It is inconceivable to me how this can happen. So the cooling air, the sun setting sooner than it did yesterday is reminder that these moments are fleeting and they are never coming back. Yes, they will be replaced with wonderful new moments, but I still stand in silent disbelief that these memories are now behind me.
I lived the summer moments knowing there would be more. This summer was the one where Gia wore her first pigtails. Where I got to watch her go from clinging to me in fear in the wave pool to dragging me behind her, popping her face in the water and emerging with pride and excitement shining in her eyes. It was the summer she started saying “lovely mommy!” and we would laugh because she meant to say “love you” but it was so cute we didn’t try to correct her. These moments continued on week after week until I looked at that yellow branch today and got the call from my friend last week abruptly informing me they were over.
Sure, some days were bitterly long and painfully dull. Some days were too hot, too bugg-y, too busy. Some days my patience was too short, Gia was too crabby, and our checkbook was too empty. It marks my last summer in my twenties, and the last of many things that we don’t even know yet.
But it was a damn good summer.
“My grandma was a wise old soul
Took me by the hand not long ago
Said, “Son, what’s your hurry, boy slow it down
Taste the wild honey, listen to the sound
Of the wind that’s blowin’ through the trees
Rivers flowin’ to the sea
Yeah they’re all headin’ home just like you and me
Life’s for livin’ child, can’t you see?”
These are the days we will remember
These are the times that won’t come again
The highest of flames become an ember
And you gotta live ’em while you can”