I backed the lawnmower out of the garage yesterday with a tad less enthusiasm than in the recent months. The sun was warm on my skin, but not as hot as in previous weeks. This time it didn't feel like my skin was going to melt off my body. The two hours of mowing before me felt a tad more like drudgery and tad less like the escape it felt early in the season.
The sun had a different angle to its glare. It hung a bit lower in the sky and seemed itself a bit tired of the long hot summer days. There was a hint of fall in the air. I'm almost afraid to believe the dog days are gone for the year as the weather has a way of surprising around here. As soon as I believe, we'll have triple digits into October.
For now, I try to enjoy a day at a time with temps only in the 80's and the air conditioner getting an extended, and much deserved, break.
We've packed a lot into this summer. A few weeks ago Dear Daughter said, "Mommy, how come we're getting to do so much fun stuff these days?" and that made me happy to hear, as I wanted the kids to have fun and remember the days of freedom we had that I know won't always be there as they grow up and into more and more responsibility.
We discovered the fountain at the downtown city park. It's been there for a few years now; we just haven't been there to check it out. We live a considerable drive from the downtown area. While I worked downtown during the construction of this particular park, I don't anymore. And so I had lost track of the development. The city fountain was established with the intention of serving as a wading area and a place for the kids to cool off in the heat of the summer. It also serves as an outdoor amphitheater with permenent seating and the fountain area itself doubling as a stage when the water is turned off. The kids were instantly in love with the experience!
If you get there at the right time of the day, the fountain will boogie with the music every ten minutes for a two hour stretch. If you don't catch the beginning beat of the music, which serves to alert that the fountains are about to geyser, you'll still know it's time when you see all the kids flocking to the water spouts! They never seem to miss those first beats that pound out the warning of what's about to come.
We also braved the movies this summer. Or I should say, I braved the movies--WITHOUT Dear Husband, but WITH both kids in tow. A local theater does a free summer series each week. Dear Daughter had been pleading for awhile to go to the movie theater. We saw the VeggieTales Pirates movie. The theater was as I expected: a madhouse packed with whining and crying kids and mothers that all seemed quite weary despite it only being ten o'clock in the morning.
We made it plenty early, yet by the time we got our popcorn (Daughter insisted) the theater was already filling up and we had to climb over several people already seated to get to the empty seats in the middle of the row. Dear Daughter was in Heaven. She nestled into her seat with her bag of popcorn clutched in her hands and crunched and grinned her way through the entire movie. She was mesmerized by the massive screen and the sights and smells of the whole experience. Dear Son enjoyed the first fifteen minutes or so before he began saying, "I wanna go home!" It was just as I predicted. I chose this particular movie as I thought it held the greatest odds of holding his attention all the way through. He's a big Larry the Cucumber fan. We managed to make it through the entire thing. It was an experience I could have done without, but it brought so much joy to my Dear Daughter, that it was worth it.
We also discovered the new indoor inflatable fun park this summer. Dear Daughter was in Heaven again. She ran excitedly from jumpers to slides to climbers. This place was also a madhouse crawling with kids. Dear Son didn't know what to do in this environment, and it was an interesting experience to see Dear Daughter being quite independent and running here and there when it seems not all that long ago she clung to me as closely as her little brother still does.
We also made it to the "big pool" a couple times this season. They installed a new child-sized water slide, perfect for Dear Daughter's age. We went for the last time of the season last night. The evening swim times costs less and is less busy than the daytime hours. I wasn't sure Dear Daughter would enjoy herself all that much as the air has already begun to cool, especially late in the evening. I thought she would be too cold.
I staked out a lounge chair where I could watch her with an eagle's eye. She talked me into the water once, but it was too cold for me, and I don't really enjoy swimming all that much anyway. Getting in the water with her means that I follow her in circles as she walks laps around the two-foot depth area and splashes in the fountains and down the slide. So I decided to see how she did with me watching from the sidelines. I also watched the young lifeguards flirting with each other and thought how much I wouldn't trust them to notice whether my daughter was drowning or not. From the looks of things, they were too busy thinking about all the fornication they would be doing later when the pool closed than about saving lives.
And then I thought of my kiddo who took her life this summer. She had just become a lifeguard for the first time this summer and she loved her new job. It's been a month and a half now since she left the earth. I wondered again why she did what she did, and our various encounters over the weeks and months before she left flashed through my memory. I let my mind wander through those weary thoughts of what signs she gave, if any, that she would eventually take her life. A colleague once pointed out to me that hindsight is much like watching a movie for the second time. You already know what happens, so you also know to look for those things that you had no idea about the first time around.
I was glad to have my thoughts interrupted by the woman in her fifties who sat in a lounge chair on the other side of the pool from me and watched my daughter with delight. I knew what she was thinking, because I was thinking it too, as I watched my little girl splash and play and then dance to the music thumping over the speakers. She lifted her arms about her head and wiggled and then turned and stuck her rear out and wiggled it too. She didn't even seem to notice that anyone was watching her. I couldn't wipe the smile from my face or stop the bittersweet feelings as I watched her every move as she splashed and played. I thought how beautiful she is. How innocent. How happy. I studied her little cheeks, which still hold a touch of baby in their roundness. I thought of how she will be officially starting Kindergarten in our homeschool co-op group despite the fact that I've already schooled her through Kindergarten and she is academically ready for first grade. She'll still be the youngest in her Kindergarten class.
Despite her readiness to formally start Kindergarten, I'm not ready for it. It's a milestone that holds so much in its meaning. I'm not yet ready for her to know the real world, and I don't think I ever will be. I don't ever want her to know the pain of being teased or rejected by a peer. I don't want her to grow up self-conscious about her body and striving to have the impossible figure and physical appearance that the media of our culture forces on girls and women. I don't want her to learn how cruel our world can be. I want to protect her from everything bad and evil and from the kinds of things that ultimately drove my just-turned-sixteen-year-old client to take her own life. While I know I can do many things to protect my little girl and prepare her--things like instilling in her a deep knowledge of her value and worth in the eyes of her Creator, and that her Mommy and Daddy love her no matter what, and what it means to be a good friend and to respect authority, and to love Jesus more than anything else, and many other such things--I still know that I can't save her from all the pain of this world.
She's going to grow up. She IS growing up. And there's not a darn thing I can to do stop it.
When it was time for her to get out of the pool, the sun was nearly set. She was chilled as I wrapped her in her towel and then in my arms. I hugged her close and dried her off as she chattered about how much fun the "big pool" is and why were they picking up all the chairs and when would the pool be open again. I helped her pull on her terry cover-up, and I pulled her into my lap and squeezed her tighter, willing the world to just stop as I whispered in her ear how much I love her, and that she is my dream come true. And when I realized that the world hadn't stopped, and the sky was still growing darker as the sun set, we climbed in the family mobile and watched the moon rise orange in the sky and marveled at its beauty as we drove home in awed silence.
On Friday evening, we dismantled Dear Son's crib. It was time. He's been asking for a big boy bed for awhile, and even though he's been ready, I haven't. Taking down the crib symbolizes yet another milestone in his own growth and growing independence. While it's foolish to even imagine that I can control the passage of time by dragging my feet on issues like taking down the crib, I still find myself grasping like this. Dear Son was excited, and he did a little boogie around the room as we assembled the pieces that were to be his "big boy bed." The first night he lasted in his big boy bed until 4:35 am before he found his way in the dark to our bedroom and climbed into bed with us, wedging his wiggly little body between us. He hasn't spent an entire night in his new big boy bed yet.
For now, I feel that's okay as I succomb to the lie of the illusion that physically holding him close will somehow be enough to stop the passage of time.