We’re coming to the end now and no one could possibly argue otherwise. Though the children have two weeks left (not really, not exactly, as their first day is two weeks from yesterday), I have only tomorrow and the weekend, and then I’m back in it–back in the school schedule that fills my days and creeps into my nights and has me up too early for all I’ve stayed up too late.
“What happened to summer?” Emma wants to know, and I only murmur my agreement, not wanting to go into it with her because I know she isn’t asking for this. But I could, were she to press me, explain how it all fell out: two weeks at home and then two weeks on Long Island and then two weeks at home and then a week in Florida followed by a week on the NC shore and now two weeks at home and then it’s off to school with me and the children following not long after.
That’s it. That’s a summer. (It’s never smart to do the math.)
I hadn’t wanted all the travel from the outset. The thought of adding anything to the schedule as described above had, at the beginning, made me whimper (we had temporarily and seriously entertained an additional drive to Cleveland to see Scott and Lynne); I had dozens of home-projects to do after all, and being Away isn’t conducive to their successful completion. But in the end, the travel was good and it wasn’t too much and it meant delicious time with family– time I needed more than I had realized and that was (oh, it was) so Good for me (who can measure, really, what it does to a person to be with family, the people who know you Well and so remind you of who you Are?).
And the five of us have had a wonderful time, too: the drive to Long Island, the Cross Sound ferry to see Emily and Janke in western Mass., our first-ever trip to Disney World and Universal Studios, hours and hours and hours on the beach, baby sea turtles hatching at night and making their way to the sea, grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles galore. And just last Thursday night (I won’t forget it) the five of us dancing wildly on the lawn at the close of the Coldplay concert.
More Than Once Bill and I have remarked to one another how good this is, the wonderful ages of our children, their maturity and their youth, their eagerness to play, the laughter and fellowship we share with them. The travel and the time at home just threw us together even more, so that even though it was always hard to leave the place where we just were, we were excited, too, to get on to the Next Thing– the adventure at home or away, the joy that waited around the corner.
The ancient Japanese poet Basho wrote what I suppose has been observed hundreds of times: that, like travel anywhere on this planet, time is also a journey. He was right, of course. We travel daily into the new and, as yet, unexplored. We are relentless wanderers. And yet this travel–time–is different from any other in that we can’t camp out. We can’t determine to spend more or less time anywhere (such as two weeks on Long Island or three days at Disney instead of one); each day has exactly 24 hours, and each of those is neatly segmented into precise hours and minutes and seconds. This day– August 13, 2009– is the only August 13, 2009 I’ll get. We might like to stay for awhile (like Frost, for example, “to watch these woods fill up with snow”), but not one of us is granted permission, not one of us can stay.
When we drove off Long Island, I looked hard at the farms outside my window. When we left Florida, I took one last look off the balcony at the water finding the sand. And when we left the Carolina shore, the last family of our relatives to leave the rental house, I wandered through it one last time and remembered all of us there.
Then I got into the van with my family– with my husband, with my children (ages 8, 10 and So Very Nearly 13)– and I thought to it all, to myself, to them: “Wait! Wait.”