Every year it happens...as tulips retreat and sporadic sunny days turn to five day forecasts filled with heat indexes and top ten ratings, I get the sudden urge to climb the apple trees of my youth, to hideaway and escape the expectation of the budding season.
Could this summer be different?
It was an early May morning. Sun brightly shining, bursts of color poking through the earth and the feeling that everything was new. A gentle cool breeze was the only reminder that summer was still a few weeks away.
I’d just left the little coffee shop where I’d been working on a project, when I realized I’d misjudged the time. There was still a half hour before I needed to pick my little one up at preschool. Not quite enough time to run an errand but too much time to waste sitting in the parking lot counting the minutes. Why not enjoy the remnants of my coffee and take a little drive?
Past the bustling farm stands, past the new houses being built, past the large field that would, in a few short months, be filled with plump pumpkins. I kept driving until I decided to make a quick right down a road I’d never been on before.
Almost immediately I came upon a golf course overlooking a beautiful hilly landscape and I realized I was in the next town over. At the top of the next hill, there was a small boxy structure, a breakfast place. I imagined locals driving for miles to visit the little place on Saturday mornings. Or maybe they avoided it since they stopped making homemade bread two years ago.
I thought about how much I loved discovering new places. With no way to fill in all the little details, a suburban explorer is left with two choices. Stop and find out more or keep driving and create the scenarios in your head.
Of course the reality rarely matches the grandeur of what the mind makes up but sometimes it blows it away.
It was without a doubt time to get back and pick up my son. I would be one of the last parents in line if there was a line at all. As I came to the next intersection, a sign indicated that somewhere over the last five minutes I had crossed into yet another town, one that was not too familiar. I kept driving and at the next intersection, there was a posting for a town that I knew, next left, two miles away. For some reason back tracking never crossed my mind. If I could get to that town I knew fairly well, I could find where I needed to go. So I made the left turn and hoped something recognizable would appear.
I was starting to panic (what was I thinking heading off with just thirty minutes to spare?); still there were rich discoveries all around. A big old Victorian house selling lawn furniture and antiques, a flag store and a beautiful picnic spot overlooking a pond. What I had happened on was not exactly a destination but worth discovering nonetheless.
Sure enough, at the next intersection, I saw a familiar strip mall. I knew right where I was, hopped on the highway and quickly (perhaps a little too quickly!) made my way to my son’s preschool. I was seven minutes late. But there was still someone in front of me in line. Phew! Made it.
As we made our way home, I couldn’t help but think of my little adventure and about the approaching summer.
I’ve always preferred the hopeful nature of spring and the melancholy turn of fall to the intensity of winter and the pressure of summer.
Every year when tulips retreat and sporadic sunny days turn to five day forecasts full of heat indexes and top ten ratings, I get the sudden urge to climb the apple trees of my youth, hoping to hideaway, if only for a few minutes, to escape the expectation of the budding season.
Family and friends call to make plans for cookouts and weekends away. The neighborhood pool club bustles with eager members preparing the stage for swim meets and long afternoons spent chasing toddlers in the kiddy pool.
And the clock begins. Tick, tick, tick.
Are all the beds weeded and mulched? Are the kids finally learning to really swim? Are they spending enough time outside? Have they spent more time reading than watching TV? Have we made all the plans to see family and friends before the back-to-school catalogs arrive?
Are we enjoying our (big pause) summer?
As a child summer was long, at times interminable. But as an adult every season, especially summer, is crazy quick. And now I know those trips to see family and friends, lazy afternoons spent by the pool, even the day camp that I attended at my elementary school—all of it required planning and packing and a lot of laundry.
Could this year be different? Was it possible to lose the running to-do list of summer and get back to the sentiment of the season? A time to re-group, try something new, wander. Could summer as an adult feel at all like summer as a kid?