What may seem like a well-oiled summer just plain isn't. I had plans - good plans, even, but as anyone who has spent a summer with their kids will understand, they didn't always end up the way I expected. Not that I'm complaining, because I'm not, it would just be nice to know ahead of time what was going to happen every day.
My summer plans got derailed about ten years ago when we bought this house. It was our first house, we didn't know better, and as soon as we parked in front of it Sara saw the front porch on our quiet dead-end street and fell in love. Quaint, I think, was how we looked at it. It had major flaws, but it was a house that we thought we could make into our home. Now, of course, she'll tell you she hates it (which isn't entirely true, I hope) because nothing is quite big enough, or new enough, or works well, or looks nice - you get the idea. And strangest of all, it has developed a sort of black hole quality that we never expected. Why? Because no matter the weather, the cleanliness of the house, the time of day, or the mood we're in, people come. In droves. Most of the time, it's great... I loathe people, but love company.
So our door has been open for most of the summer, with kids from the neighborhood streaming in and out, and the occasional adult. They know the dogs, who don't even bother to get up anymore when they come in, they know where the gumball machine is (we've gone through 12 pounds of gumballs this summer), and they know they can stay until I get pissed off at someone. It's an uneasy balance. So aside from all of the random activities to keep the kids busy, I've spent a good amount of time alternating between getting bandages and ice packs for every kid in the neighborhood who gets hurt outside, and yelling at them for one reason or another. It's a love-hate thing. It's amazing and horrible all wrapped up in one big life-sized ball.
Amazing because there are days when I see them growing up right before my eyes, and I'm not sure exactly how to explain that. They make choices, friends, enemies and cupcakes. They organize and form packs. They have drama and elementary school sized life lessons, and there are days when they are so thankful I'm there that it floors me. Floors. Me. Those are the moments that I want to share with someone else so desperately that it feels like my skin is splitting when I can't, and those are the moments I wouldn't have any idea how to share if I could.
And horrible for the same reasons. It's so achingly hard to be the parent that I want to be all the time, to protect them and let them go at the same time, and to hold on to the time that I have. 'Bittersweet', someone said to me while we were talking about this summer, but that doesn't begin to cut it. It's torturous and back breaking work, because every problem they have becomes mine, and somehow they make it worthwhile... and I get the feeling that now that they're older they feel the same way. Some days I'm Bellerophon to them and some days Chimera, and they never know what they're going to get when they wake up. To be fair, it's not that dramatic... usually I'm just a guy.
I have the same problem with figs. I have two little trees in the back yard, and they're no small amount of work. No large amount of work either, but enough to be a welcome distraction. The problem is that it's and endless wait for them to change from little dusty green balls into luxurious purple teardrops, and when they're finally ready I still don't know what to expect. Sometimes they're full of earth and chalk, and other times the skin bursts from the slightest touch of the jagged edge of my teeth and the insides send tiny shivers down to my toes. They're exciting, though, because you never know what you're gonna get. Anyone can grow apples, but it just doesn't seem like any fun.