I’m beginning to understand why summer is not the time of year for introspection. During the school year, when both kids were out of the house all day, I got used to thinking a lot while I cleaned, while I ironed, while I shopped for groceries or prepped food. Between chores, between loads of laundry, during my afternoon cup of coffee, and on Tuesdays, when ironing and the grocery list were my only to-dos for the day, I would write about my solitary musings.
Now, with both kids home for summer, I am shocked by how little space I have to think. My ears are filled with the constant chatter of children, with funny conversations to overhear (“I’m going to stick blueberries up my nose.”) Chores are irregularly timed – the kids may wake up at 8 for breakfast or at 10 – and take longer to complete. There are more dishes after lunch and snacks, more corralling of playmates, more work undone immediately after I do it – cereal boxes on the table I just cleared, leaves tracked in where I just swept, books and UNO cards scattered on the couch and floor I just tidied – and more occasions for me to call, “Y’all need to clean this mess up.”
And in the small spaces between chores? I fill those gladly with cooking and cleaning lessons. On Tuesdays, rather than write, I host play dates, pick blueberries, or make homemade pasta with the kids.
I am simultaneously exhausted and invigorated by our summer days. At 7 and 9 our children require very little care-taking from me, but I don’t want to just go about my routine and leave them to fend for themselves. At least not 100% of the time. They are extraordinarily fun right now, and interested in everything, and I love taking advantage of summer to do things differently than we do during the school year. In my “free” time, when they do occupy each other or have friends over, I find myself researching campfire recipes so we can expand our camp cuisine repertoire, or prepping dinner at 3pm so my husband can grill it while our daughter and I are at swim practice. At night, we stay up later, finishing dinner well after 8 o’clock. On Sunday we took an evening walk at sunset (9 o’clock) to catch fireflies at dusk and to watch the super moon rise over mountains, and we didn’t get the kids to bed until 10. On other nights, we may not tuck the kids in until equally late. If my husband and I unwind with Mad Men after that, and then read in bed, it is often midnight before we turn off the lights.
And then, at 6 am, I wake to write. But mostly, after the morning to midnight activity of the previous day, I just stare at our desktop photograph of a dewy leaf and my brain does not move. I smell the warm scent of the coffee I’m waiting for. I feel Appalachian air through an open window and bask in its late June coolness. I say good morning to my husband when he goes downstairs to work out, and then hear a scrape of metal on the patio as he covers the grill in the quiet morning. I smell and feel and hear these things, but my mind goes no deeper than that sensory experience. I don’t care about the blank screen in front of me, or the manuscripts to send back out. I want to care, but I just don’t have the energy for it. I won’t think about them now. Not when our kids are home, and there are berries to pick, and ravioli to fill, and Dutch oven campfire recipes to research, and swim meets to cheer our daughter at. No, I don’t feel like turning inward right now. Not in summer. I’ll save that for fall.
Blueberries are ripe for U-Pick harvesting at 3 Birds Berry Farm in Blacksburg right now (late June). Blackberries should be ready early July, and raspberries two weeks after that.