I’ve been living in this town for two summers. We have much in this sweet mountain town – great views, white water rapids, the cutest ice cream shop, good weather. But we’re missing a swimming pool. And not many days pass that I don’t reminiscence about those glorious summers that were filled with trips to Grandma’s and her backyard pool. Or those summers in the Denver suburbs when we packed our bags with sunscreen, floaties, and beach towels and walked in our flip flops to the neighborhood pools. Or that perfect year that our apartment complex supplied us with a private pool and I spent every spare moment in my swim suit. And somehow -in my reminiscing – these summers, as beautiful and perfect as they are, feel a little less-than in comparison to those.
Every summer for several (many several) years in a row I read Little Women. It’s pages spoke summertime to me. My family would long be asleep as I lay in my bed pouring through the stories of the March sisters as if I didn’t know what happened next, as if I couldn’t quote every line. It didn’t feel like summer until I had lived through Jo chopping off her hair, Amy’s nearly fatal ice skating trip, Beth facing the scarlet fever, and Meg falling in love with John Brooke. The reviving, cool air that Colorado evenings offer would rustle the pages through my open window as I read chapter after chapter. I haven’t read it for quite a few summers. The tradition teases at my subconscious mind. It isn’t summer without Little Women, it whispers. And as I pick up a new book I wonder if it’s true.
Two summers ago, four girlfriends and I strategically shoved our luggage into a car not meant to carry so much, passed around snacks, and drove every minute of the fifteen hour drive to Disneyland. We walked, mesmerized, down Main Street, USA. We screamed down Splash Mountain. We took pictures with Captain America. We rode the California Screamin’ Adventure three times in a row. We were whisked away to Neverland for 50 seconds. We laughed until we cried (puked) as we spun around on the Teacups under the light of Chinese lanterns. We grinned foolishly at the magic of Tinkerbell flying through fireworks. And I can’t stop wishing we were loading up that too small car and doing it all over again.
The only long distance dating my husband and I ever did was for two months one summer. (Praise the Lord.) We made grand attempts to go to bed early and then the phone would ring and before we knew it we’d been talking for hours into the night. My cheek would get sweaty as my cell phone began sticking to it. I learned how to prop it up without using my hands and I discovered a hundred reasons why I wanted to marry that boy. We fell in love that summer, laying in separate beds two hundred miles apart. And, though I don’t mind that our nights are now spent in the same bed, I can’t help but smile wistfully when I remember those summer nights.
There was one year between semesters at college that I spent every morning beside a stream and every evening on the porch under the moonlight. These were places that the atmosphere was thin and God’s presence was everywhere. The soundtrack to Pride and Prejudice was on repeat, my Bible was creased open to the Psalms, and I fell in love with nature. These were idyllic moments. Summer memories that should be painted on a canvas to be captured forever. I get nostalgic simply thinking about those days.
And my summer lately? It doesn’t really feel like these other summers. There’s not a lot of pool time. I haven’t picked up Little Women, not even for a chapter. I haven’t got to Disneyland, and my husband and I crash at 9:00 p.m. without bearing our hearts to each other for six hours first. This summer feels different. It feels like this summer.
This summer, when we get up early and I make coffee for two. When I run, and want to run, every morning if possible. When my work is to take children on summer adventures, with a baby strapped to my chest and grubby hands to hold, and my husband comes home smelling like the river and sunshine mixed together. This summer when getting to the city is a retreat and coming home means gaining elevation. This summer, when I have mounds of library books and vats of iced coffee. When my mornings are chilly and the evenings need a jacket, but the midday sun will scorch you in a second. When my reading spot is under tall trees with bucks and hummingbirds. This summer, when God is still in his heaven and all is still right with the world.