Sunrise, Sunset or Where Did the Summer Go?

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?

About Melissa M

(Advisory Board) grew up in Australia and California and now lives in Provo, Utah with her husband, four children, and their dog, Daisy. She served a mission in Peru and has a BA and MA in English from BYU. She loves reading, writing, and quiet afternoons. She does not love grocery shopping. Now that two of her children attend BYU and her youngest children are in high school and junior high, she is trying to adjust to this "emptying nest" stage and still wondering how it snuck up on her so fast.

13 thoughts on “Sunrise, Sunset or Where Did the Summer Go?

  1. For me, the end of summer not only means the kids head back to school, but that I, too, must return back to work. And while I will miss the unstructured nature of our summers, I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine and schedule. Dare I admit that summertime is quite a lazy time for me and I get much more done during the school year when I’m working full-time and have very structured days?

    Even though I get frustrated with my lack of ambition during the summer, I will still miss summer. But I have a few fond memories of this summer–attending Young Women’s Camp, taking my 15-year old son for his first drive, proving to myself that I can successfully train for a sprint triathlon in 4 weeks, and the bi-weekly trips to DQ for Blizzards.

  2. I love Connie Willis (especially To Say Nothing of the Dog–you should also check out Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is where Willis got her title). Although I would suggest avoiding Lincoln’s Dreams and Passage, both of which are quite dark, but don’t have quite the same depth of Doomsday Book (perhaps her best known novel).

    Thanks for a lovely reminisce on your summer!

  3. Kylie, I’m jealous of you. I wish I had a mother who could write prose like a poet.

    After experiencing Paris for the first time this summer, I am now obsessed with books about France. So I just finished “Is Paris Burning?” which is about the last Nazi General in Paris who decided to ignore Hitler because he didn’t wish to be known as the stupid Nazi general who left Paris in ruins. The book must have been good because I was reading it on a 3 hour car trip which only seemed like a 30 minute car trip because I was so engrossed in the book. Now I’m going to read “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris” by David McCullough.

    I took my youngest child to Europe for six weeks this summer and so my favorite memories will be watching him kiss the blarney stone to catch the gift of gab, walking through the amazing Trinity College library in Dublin while my son tells me he wants to transfer there,relishing Mozart’s Requiem in a cathedral in Warsaw (which was rebuilt after Hitler did leave Warsaw in ruins), discovering a baby eagle in the depths of the ruins of the Krzystopor Castle in Ujazd,eating exotic ice cream sundaes after our Polish classes in Lublin (my final and favorite sundae consisted of black current sorbet, kiwi sorbet, strawberry sorbet, yogurt, fresh strawberries and kiwi slices, lemon sauce, with whipped cream on the top),taking an evening bike tour of Paris, visiting the gorgeous Bayeaux Tapestry which is as long as a football field and tells the story of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, which is the last time England was successfully invaded. My son and I walked the beaches of Normandy on a bleak and rainy day, quite similar to the weather our troops faced on D-Day. We loved the Scottish highlands where my son was quite certain he saw the Loch Ness Monster. I loved Tintern Abby in Wales and hanging out in Shakespeare’s hometown.

    We were both happy to return home because we were exhausted, but we have six weeks of amazing memories that we shared. The trip was a lovely tender mercy. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to ponder my favorite moments of the summer!

    Everyone in our family is currently a college student and I’m especially looking forward to my Milton class which I start next week. I love to learn…

  4. I’ve realized that as much as I relish new experiences, I’m not so sure I’m a big fan of change. My heart twinges at the change of each season, at the putting away of clothes-grown-too-small, at each rite of passage that marks the passage of time. I’m not sure I always felt this way, but as my children grow older (and I grow older along with them,) I recognize just how fleeting each season really is.

    Can you tell my children started yesterday and I wasn’t really happy about it? My oldest started high school, my youngest has only one more year at home before kindergarten. Not sure I can stand it…

    Our summer had many sweet moments, but I’ve had to make myself remember the good and not feel bad for the things we didn’t do.

    Favorite book? Didn’t read anything great… Maybe there will be more time now that the kids are back in school.

  5. Thanks for a beautiful post, Melissa. Our summer also went too quickly. And I hardly read at all! I’m giving myself two weeks to catch up on everything I neglected and then I intend to spend an entire day in bed with a novel.

  6. Thanks for the beautiful post!

    This is the first year I’ve really not wanted my kids to go back to school. In many ways, summer is much simpler, and I enjoy that.

    I didn’t really read much. That’s one thing that will actually be easier to do with the kids away.

  7. This summer is hard for me to classify–the actual summer was amazing, one of the best I’ve ever had, only to come crashing to a horrible end. So if I focus on May through the end of July, it was fabulous, and it went way too quickly.

    Despite the behavior of one of my classes this year, I am always so happy when school starts. I love meeting my new students, and I’m lucky to teach an elective that a lot of previous students take, so it’s a little like a reunion.

    I read Bossypants by Tina Fey, and especially enjoyed the 2nd half of it. I always bring home a huge stack of books from school but rarely get through all of them.

  8. This summer was a hard one. By the end I was thrilled to see my kids go back. I feel bad about that, but that’s how it is.

  9. We had an amazing summer, and at the same time I feel like we totally missed summer.

    The day after school was out I packed my three younger children in the van and we drove from North Carolina to Utah. We took 5 days to do it, stayed at fun hotels, didn’t eat too much fast food, and had a great time. In Utah we picked up our BYU child. We spent 3.5 weeks in Utah, (my husband joined us for 10 days) spending time with family and friends and also spending a couple of days in Moab and in Zions. It was an amazing trip. We also managed to listen to 10 of the 11 books on CD of Tennis Shoes among the Nephites, which made our driving time fun.

    We arrived back in NC in mid-July, spent two weeks at home, one week at the beach, sent our BYU student into the MTC, and then a week later I went out to spend a few days at education week. I got back Monday and school starts tomorrow.

    In my wildest fantasy life I would have two summers; one to do what we just did, and the other to sit all summer by the pool, have cookouts with our friends, and feel like I did when I was a child, that summer would last forever…

  10. Love this poetic and nostalgic post! I always mourn the end of summer, probably more so since moving to Arizona where I don’t have a lovely fall to take the edge off. I’m going to have to think about my best memories of the summer and write them up–thanks for the inspiration!

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