Essays, opinions and rants



This week’s onset of kids’ summer vacation (onslaught is more accurate) does not remind me of the summers of my generation, which were 12 weeks of completely unscheduled time. Summer looked like nothingness back then, in a good way.

We spent 12 hours a day in the pool, getting out for ice cream and popsicles, finally coming in at 9 p.m. to watch Dukes of Hazard or The Love Boat wrapped in wet towels that mildewed the shag carpet and warped the chair seats.

(Of course we ate more than ice cream and popsicles. My step-mom had a specialty called “chocolate gravy” which was essentially homemade hot fudge that she smothered over toasted white bread. The grains of sugar weren’t fully melted into the chocolate so they added a sort of crunch to it. Yum. I don’t know how many cavities I have, but as a reminder to brush I open my mouth wide now and show them to my kids, describing the excruciating shots in the gums the dentist administered to them.)

The swimming summers changed when I discovered soap operas. I had to get out of bed by 10:30 a.m. to rig things up: With a ladder and an extension cord out my bedroom window, I moved a TV onto the roof, then laid out in the sun with baby oil all over myself for a few peak hours, drinking iced tea and squinting to catch the action on the screen in the bright light. Those were the days of Cheez Whiz spray cans, which were portable and well-constructed; never exploded in the direct sun on those 100+ degree days.

At 3 p.m., after General Hospital, I returned to the pool.

Once a summer, my dad took us for a weekend to a big theme park in San Jose. We stayed at the nearby Holiday Inn to maximize park time. Those trips were the highlight of the season. Besides that, I read books.

We all know damn well that in 2017, all of that would have occurred in the span of 3.5 days, before and after which we’d be hustling and fighting traffic to and from other activities. We now talk and fret about over scheduling and stress in kids, but are we doing anything about it? Pete and I wanted to give it a shot. So, feeling slightly illicit, we decided to launch summer with a weekend of nothingness (penciling in the nothingness before day camps kicked off the following week).

We talked about it off and on during the run-up. “So, we don’t have anything planned?” “No.” “So we’ll just take it easy?!?!?” “Yes.” “Maybe we’ll (insert activity here)?” “And maybe we won’t.” “Yeah!” (Slightly disbelieving, doubtful looks at each other.)

The weather cooperated with the plan by being particularly weird and unpredictable. The kids, being kids, didn’t ask too many questions about plans. Maybe they thought they were better off not knowing.

We had dinner at the beach to celebrate the end of school Friday. It was windy, so we didn’t stay as late as we sometimes do. We rolled back home just before 9 p.m. As I kissed our nose-in-book 12-year-old good night, I said, “Stay up as late as you want.” She couldn’t speak and her eyes filled with tears. Of joy. When she regained composure, she whispered, “You’ve never said that to me before.”

Magical summer moment officially/inadvertently created.

The next day, she slept later than she ever has. Her younger and more industrious counterpart attempted to inject a semblance of structure to the weekend by making an outline:

We loosely followed her agenda (though we never got to the Cliff Bars or Minecraft). “Things that need doing” were walking the dog in the woods, emptying the dishwasher and getting clothing off the floor and into the goddamn laundry room (andWHYisthatsohard?).

But holy cow, the sloth that ensued was as luxurious as a five-star hotel getaway. We sat around in pjs reading, using screens, listening to music, utterly oblivious to clocks.

Saturday afternoon, chocolate chip pancake breakfast in progress:

Saturday night, we hit a neighboring town for tacos. No reservations, just showed up when we got around to it. Late-night Saturday: Fire, margaritas, s’mores, the now-inescapable Hamilton soundtrack, and mom and dad repeatedly yelling “Don’t spill the beans!” to Whitney as she aggressively rocked Anna (nickname: Beans) in the hammock.

Sometime Sunday – an invented caterpillar game using a sleeping bag liner:

Later Sunday – the bakeoff occurred, and let me tell you it was torture for the judges but fortunately there were TWO categories of competition, appearance and taste, and in a remarkable turn of events, one child won for appearance and the other child won for taste! No one saw that coming.

The weekend was so utterly relaxing; we achieved true staycation states of mind, simply by leaving the calendar blank. We are totally going to do that again sometime when our schedules permit.

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