Summertime is the time to be with family and friends. In the long shadows of the fading sun, we play soccer in the backyard after dinner, and then cool our taste buds with second helpings of ice cream.
This will be our last carefree summer. Next year in June or July we will move to our unknown military duty station, get ready to rent or buy a home in an unknown town, find a church to attend and a school for our son.
I worry at times that our child will not remember the carefree summers, but only the hectic summers when we moved. Therefore, I want to make this summer special and memorable.
We all sat down on a Sunday night and discussed our options for spending the summer holidays. Perhaps we could drive somewhere for a few days. Paris is close to us, and the Alps are just 3 hours away.
“What do you want to do during the summer?” I asked our son, Stefan.
“I just want to stay here and play with my friends.”
My husband and I exchanged puzzled glances. “You don’t want to go anywhere?” I asked. “See some castles? Hike up a mountain?”
“Well, I like to go see things sometimes. But a lot of my friends are leaving this summer, and if we go somewhere I won’t be here to play with them before they go. And I won’t be here to say goodbye to them.”
Why was I surprised? Unlike his parents, Stefan does not know what it is like to live and grow up in the same place year after year. Each year during the summer we make new friends when new families move in next to us; however, we also say goodbye to friends every summer. As parents, we always try to emphasize the positive, but we cannot deny that leaving friends hurts. This experience repeats itself every summer and overshadows the joy of long and carefree summer days.
I had a very different experience growing up, complaining that our family had the most boring summers. I remember sleeping in every morning and going grocery shopping for my mother after breakfast in the little corner shop up the hill. My sister and I spent hours playing with Barbie dolls, sometimes fighting over the cobalt evening gown for the dolls. I recall endless summer days playing hopscotch with my friends and riding our bikes. On sunny days we climbed the old trees that my grandfather had planted in the back yard. By August the branches hung low under the heavy weight of ripe cherries and plums. One of us stood watch to make sure our mother did not catch us eating all of the fruit (of course she knew what we were doing). Finally, the days came when we harvested fruit and vegetables together and helped our mother to make preserves.
Every year at the beginning of school I dreaded writing an essay about my holiday experiences. As for travelling, we visited relatives in the next town. How boring. There was just nothing to write about!
Yet, my boring summer holidays were precious. I know that now. My parents did not have to think about packing and moving to another duty station. I did not have to worry about losing friends, or my dad deploying for a year. Every year at the start of the school holidays, my sisters and I knew that we would spend the summer much like the previous ones.
In a way, our son leads the adventurous lifestyle that I craved as a child. Summers are not predictable and boring for Stefan, but they are also not carefree. By the end of this summer he will have said goodbye to his friends and, I hope, have made new ones. At the end of next summer he will have moved to another country and will try to make new friends again.
Still, I am determined to make this summer special for us. Stefan will go camping with his dad, and we will take some day trips together. The long days will go by fast with swimming, playing and doing crafts. I promised him that I would try to roller skate outside with him instead of practicing in our basement. He promised me to help me make some preserves.
We will hug our friends one last time. We will welcome new neighbors, who will wave goodbye to us next year. This summer will be special and memorable.
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