The most unexpected things can happen when you turn your back for a moment.
A fearless child can discover a new balancing act.
A cherry may inexplicably find it's way onto a fence post.
And your bowl of ice cream will be quickly consumed by eager little ones before you can grab a good shot of it.
This is how the summer has unfolded around here. Turn around, and everything's different. Literally, of course, as the photos above prove (and as my living room, after the five-minute mad-dash game of "shopping" my boys play, can easily attest to). But also in a much broader sense.
Summer is supposed to be the time of year when everyone relaxes, unwinds, leans back into the rocker on the veranda or swings ever-so-gently in the hammock, and watches the world go by. It's been immortalized as the "easy-living" time of year. That theme has apparently not been properly communicated to my children, however, or to us, the adults who share their lives.
This is the summer my baby turned into a little kid, one who can speak in sentences and jump and climb up everything and proves every day that he can outrun his older brother. This is the summer my little kid turned into a big kid, when he taught himself to read without informing his parents, began making up his own stories about little worms and fairies and his cousin, and asks philosophical and scientific questions.
Summer in Maine, with its period of brief-but-intense heat and light pouring through every open window, which drapes itself across our shoulders, sticking to the backs of ours necks like so many strands of sweat-drenched hair, seems to be just the thing to energize my children, who want to do more! faster! longer! every day. And we watch them, and get pulled into their double spheres of joy and enthusiasm, and spin with them around and around and around until we can't anymore and down we go, and when we look up, squinting through the blur, we wonder who these children are and where did our snuggly babies go?
It's at times like these that I wish I had a personal photographer to follow me around, helping me claim all the little moments of our days that seem inconsequential, yet when taken together point to momentous happenings and changes ahead. I can't capture it all myself - my first priority has to be making sure I live it. Yet I want to remember every little bit.
I had just such a day recently. A Sunday, Josh's only (and only sometimes) day off from the restaurant. The weather was what people from away stream into the state by the carload looking for each summer: clear skies, bright sun, ocean breeze, warmth prickling your forearms. We leashed up the dog, buckled the boys into the stroller, and moseyed on down the road to the beach. And then, I saw it. My kids had grown more fully into themselves, seemingly overnight.
Kalen, once timid, was now perfectly agile, insistent that he scamper across the boulders alone. Wylie, who months earlier (or was it just weeks ago?) wasn't sure about even standing in the ocean, now strode purposefully through the waves and appeared ready to start swimming. This spontaneous eruption of bravery, of independence, was bittersweet to witness, in ways every parent will recognize. They're growing up so quickly! Developing new skills! . . . They don't need me as much anymore.
So, what is a parent feeling nostalgic and proud to do? Head to the local creamery, of course. Watch your suddenly-old kids draw on the chalkboard wall and weave among the legs of friendly strangers as they run between you and their father. Eat lots of ice cream. Smile at young families with little babies, hoping they know what you're just beginning to grasp. That you'll never absorb all of it. You'll always be surprised, caught off guard by these little people. It's the whole point, after all.
See you here again tomorrow, when I'll be sharing the chocolate-cherry-almond ice cream recipe inspired by this day. Until then!