It started so simply, this summer of ours. Three months ahead of us. Countless things to do, places to go, memories to make. Open road stretched out before us. The options were limitless.
Then we blinked. And now, here we are, facing the unofficial end of the summer season, Labor Day weekend, asking the same question we do every year.
Where did it go?
It seems that just last week we were unbuttoning the family camp for the season, going about all the tedious but necessary chores that would make it habitable. Clean things up. Stock up on dry goods. Make sure the water’s in … and working. Launch the float … and the big boat.
The small boat — that brown, 1968 relic that is good for trolling, but little else? Well, it could wait awhile, until the urge to spend a lazy afternoon dredging for lake trout finally struck.
Just last week. Wasn’t it?
Of course, it wasn’t. Not even close.
At this time of year, it’s hard to fight the temptation to look at the summer that was and lament the would-have-beens, to agonize over the we-were-going-tos. There are plenty of those, of course. There always are. After all, our summer only began just last week … or something like that.
But step back for a moment, gently unwind that ball of summer yarns, and you may find some surprises.
Summer didn’t bolt by, you see. It couldn’t have. Or you wouldn’t have so many vivid memories.
Like sitting in Fenway Park with an 8-year-old who was making his first pilgrimage to the Beantown sports shrine. Cracking peanuts from their shells and chomping them down. Yelling “Yooouk!” Watching his reaction as a roar greets another Red Sox home run. Watching him stare, awestruck, at a vial of Fenway dirt, a gift from the Sox to commemorate his visit.
Like spending a frigid Fathers Day on the West Branch of the Penobscot River, casting flies into a stiff wind, piling on layer after layer of clothing in order to stay warm. Or somewhat warm. Catching fish. Releasing them. Ending the day enjoying breathtaking views of Mount Katahdin.
Like spending warm afternoons on Beech Hill Pond, enjoying conversation with family, swimming when you felt like it, relaxing and reading a book when you didn’t.
Like waiting on the shore of the same pond for the Fourth of July fireworks, three excited children sitting in lawn chairs, ready to celebrate the biggest and best kabooms that they see. Then, trying to explain, after an evening fog sets in, that actually seeing the fireworks go off doesn’t have to be part of our Independence Day celebration. And glancing in the back seat of the car five minutes after leaving the pond and seeing three snoring children, exhausted after a full day of fun.
Like basking on the beaches of Prince Edward Island, playing in the waves, and cooking on the grill nearly every evening during a long-anticipated vacation. And visiting Cows Creamery to sample the famous ice cream. Once. Twice. OK, maybe three times.
Like nurturing tomatoes and basil and lettuce and hot peppers in our front porch minigarden and turning that basil into the world’s best pesto. Or at least the best pesto that I’ve tasted in my neighborhood. Or the only pesto that I’ve tasted in my neighborhood. Either way, I’m satisfied.
Like sending three kids off to their first overnight summer camps, worrying about them while they were gone, and listening to all of their stories upon their return. And listening to the same stories again. And again.
And like never launching that little fishing boat — the brown 1968 relic that’s good for trolling, but little else — because … well … because you were so busy. Or so satisfied being unbusy. Either way, it never happened. And you’re fine with that.
And you realize that ultimately, you didn’t miss out on much, after all. Seemingly short, but long in memories, summer was all it could be.
And then some.