This morning my children will don their new school clothes and, toting new backpacks stuffed with sharpened pencils and blank notebooks, they’ll head out the door for the first day of school. And, just like that, summer vacation will be over. Like me, you may be wondering where the summer went. I always start summer vacation with lots of plans: this summer I had a tall stack of books I intended to read during lazy afternoons by the pool while my daughter swam with friends, and I planned on catching up on some scrapbooking—an easy project to work on while kids hang out at home, right?—and I wanted to have relaxed evenings at home, playing card games and watching movies and roasting marshmallows and star gazing and reading books in bed while listening to crickets chirp outside. I read exactly one book (although it was a good one—if you haven’t read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, I highly recommend it); I made it as far as printing and cropping some of my photos (one of these days I really will switch to digital scrapbooking); and my husband and I spent most evenings chauffeuring our twelve-year-old and fifteen-year-old to various friends’ houses or hosting numerous teen gatherings. We also spent a lot of time this summer organizing/attending/supervising various youth activities in our ward, since my husband and I both serve in the YM/YW organizations. Somehow June drifted into July and July blurred into August and now summer’s over.
But we did accomplish some things these past three months. First and foremost, my son finally got that Eagle project done (our last Eagle project!–farewell forever, scouting!), which pretty much makes up for everything else we didn’t accomplish. And my children enjoyed their summer; they hung out a lot with friends and went to camps and EFY, and we managed to work in a little music practice and homework and a quick trip to the beach and Disneyland. And after three months of having constant noise and motion and controlled (or not so controlled) chaos at home, I’m ready to get back into a routine and have some time to myself during the school day. Still, I feel a tinge of sadness this morning. My son starts 10th grade today and will be leaving home in three short years; my daughter, my baby, is going into 8th grade, so I just checked off one of the last remaining summers I have with my younger children before they head off to college and my husband and I become empty nesters. I know how fast the last five summers have gone by—my two oldest children left home during that time—so I expect the next five to fly by as well.
So this morning I’m lingering over the memories I’ll tuck away from this summer: the night at girls’ camp that my daughter and I and the other young women in our stake spent singing hymns around the lake, high up in the mountains, the girls’ sweet voices drifting over the water as we stood under a wide starry sky; and then, a night later, when we sat around the campfire and shared pure, heartfelt testimonies, the girls’ faces lit with firelight. The confident look on my son’s face as he directed twenty-five bright-faced youth in collecting and sorting boxes and boxes of books for his Eagle project; and the evening he and his friends spent at our house making a spoof of The Bachelorette. Lazy afternoons at the pool (too few and far between) and barbecues; and the night we took our children to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, when we happened to have the whole theater to ourselves and my daughter played musical chairs throughout the entire movie. Driving across the Nevada desert, listening to Keane on the stereo, my children reading in the backseat, my husband tapping on his iPad. Riding Space Mountain with my eyes closed and tromping around Disneyland until midnight. Walking along a pebble-strewn beach with my daughter, collecting heart-shaped rocks before being ambushed by a sudden huge wave, leaving us both gasping and laughing and dripping wet.
I’ll remember all of this and more as I turn now to crisp fall mornings and mellow afternoons, as the trees turn to gold and the earth ripens toward harvest. This morning, after I send my children off to school, I’ll hurry through my morning chores and then I’ll take a drive up the canyon to Sundance, noting just a hint of color in the leaves. I’ll have lunch at the little sandwich shop and then sit in one of the rocking chairs on the porch and start a new book, looking out over sun-splashed hills covered with pines and aspens and wildflowers. And I’ll breathe deeply, feeling that age-old mixture of relief and sadness, as I mark the end of the season.
Are you sad that summer is coming to an end, happy that school is starting, or both? Did this summer live up to your expectations? What are some of your favorite memories of this summer? What is the best book you read this summer?