Summertime

The homeroom teacher for Ace Number One stopped me in the hall the other day after Maureen and I finished playground duty. He asked if it would be okay if he gave our eldest a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. He has read it every summer since 1964 and thought she would enjoy it.

It was a lovely gesture and I am anxious to reread my own copy as she works her way through the book. If you have never read it, put it on your list.

There are two scenes I love. I’ll tell you about the second one another time but in the early part of the story, set in the summer of 1928 about 12-year-old Douglas and his brother, Tom, the two boys are talking in their room. Tom tells Douglas that he has discovered that old people were never children, which strikes Douglas as both obvious and brilliant. Tom also points out that this is tragic because they cannot really do anything to help old people.

The two are amazed at Tom’s discovery. Because we live in the moment this is partially true; because the children cannot conceive of anything beyond the moment, they see it as a fact.

For the boys, growing up seems not to depend on figuring things out completely as much as coming up with new ideas about things. In fact, there is no reason to believe that adults have figured many things out but rather simply reached a consensus. But for the boys, summer is magic: growth happens without apparent change.

Do you remember summer? Not vacations to the beach, not getting out of school, but summer. That feeling that you have absolutely nothing planned, no list of chores, nothing written down or implied…tomorrow?

I don’t either.

Still, I find peace in remembering Catholicism 101: you cannot quantify grace.

So those moments of nothing have been replaced with moments of superficial importance. The “everything I have to do today” steps on the neck of “what will I do tomorrow?” and strangles it.

And I sometimes forget to find grace in the to-do list, emails, and phone calls.

Today, right now, I will close my eyes and remember. I will pray for patience. I will pray for the nothingness that surrounds me and the violence of busyness that consumes me.

I will pray in hopes that us old people aren’t so helpless after all.

~pjd

Amused at the Park

The children and I spent a day last week at the local amusement park. It is called Quassy and the kids named it Connecticut’s version to Lancaster’s Dutch Wonderland, which used to be part of our summer tradition. Though smaller and boasting less rides, the park is manageable and affordable, two things often missing from similar parks. Since the admission to the park was included in the day camp our local parks and recs hosts, I decided to save the kids from the bus ride and join them. Plus, child number two is a bit skittish on some of the rides so it helped to have Dad along.

We started at the swinging chairs. Every year since she was tall enough to ride them, child number one has sought to conquer the ride. This year, her brother joined her. In past years, the screams coming from my first born would have passers by thinking someone was dismembering her and then there was the one year the operator stopped the ride early. To be fair, the bar on the front of the chair had come down and split my lip and since she was sitting behind me screaming, the teenage  operator saw the blood on her shirt (flying off my lip), heard her screams, and wondered what he had done wrong. But I digress.

This year, she climbed aboard, buckled herself in and pulled her hat down over her face. No screams. She later commented that if she didn’t look, she wasn’t scared, and could just enjoy the ride. There is a lesson in there for life in general, I am sure.

Then it was off to the wooden roller coaster. “I’m not going,” child number two repeats the entire 20 minutes in line. “I’ll wait with you,” I think to myself. But as we near our turn, she summoned the courage and off we went. Two thoughts went through my mind as we hit the first hill: First, I am taller than most of the youngsters on this ride and I really hope the designers of this ride took that into consideration for that tunnel up there. Second, the bar, though tight on me, has left significant room for the child next to me to wiggle around and if she falls out, her mother will kill me.

Unless they are filled with actual tea, I don’t do teacups.

The pirate ship was my undoing. Back and forth motion makes me ill and it didn’t help that the eight year old next to me kept coming off the seat as the ride made its return trip down and then up again. Half way through, he say, “Okay, I’m good, we can stop now.” I explained that it doesn’t really work like that as I close my eyes and hold him tightly. The oldest child, who took her sisters to the merry-go-round while we were getting nauseas, is waiting for us at the exit and say, “I thought you hated that ride.”

“I do,” I said, “But I love your brother.”

“So do I,” she says pointing back to the ride, “But not that much.”

We hit the other rides in due time and the water park was a nice place to sit and watch the kids run hither and yon while I took a nap. “When did I get old?” I think as I sit in the shade and close my eyes, wondering why no adults work at this place.

The end of the day sees us parked at the bumper cars for four or five turns. The lines in the park have dwindled and Joe, the teenager running the ride lets the kids go again and again. I find the bumper cars to be both exhilarating and counter-intuitive. I was taught not to hit things when I drive, so I instinctively swerve around the cars and navigate the traffic in the pen around and around without hitting anything. “You’re doing it wrong,” Joe says over the intercom, mocking my abilities to steer clear of the others. Then, wham, the kids have ganged up on me and hit me from all sides. They shout with glee as Joe tells them to do it again. “Everyone hit the man in the blue car,” he announces, pleased with himself. I consider trying to jump the tracks to hit Joe with my car, but enjoy the moment of bliss on my youngest child’s face instead.

“Have fun teaching them how to drive,” Joe calls as we depart. I laugh, praying that day will stay far away, knowing deep down it will be here before I know it.

“Home again, home again, jiggity jig,” I announce like I always do when it’s time to head back to base. I am hoping they will sleep. I am hoping the sun has exhausted them.

If only wishing made it so.