They say Summer unofficially begins on Memorial Day. Marching bands and beauty queens float through town then back out as our signal — it’s time to dig out the beach towels. (We can also now “legally” squeeze back into our one pair of white jeans, but we’ll probably just end up dripping barbecue sauce on them.)
The timeline isn’t too far off, but in my mind, the glory days show up in June, and not a day before. That’s when I make the mental shift, to the syncopated tune of flip-flops and sprinklers firing off across yards all over town.
You know how some years Christmas falls on a Sunday or the 4th of July lands on a Saturday, as though the universe has never been more perfectly aligned?
That’s how I feel about today. Everything lined up just so, and now we’re here, with a perfect fluke on our hands. It’s a bit like leap year, only less confusing and infinitely more celebratory. (I still don’t understand leap year. Sorry, Caesar.)
Around 3pm, my three littlest kiddos will be sprung from the neighborhood elementary school for their longish, sticky stretch of summer vacation.
Later today, my oldest son Robert will have his electronic monitoring ankle bracelet cut off, ending nearly four years of incarceration in various forms.
My heart is a chocolate layer cake, a bowl of fizzy punch, a cranked up radio, and one hundred party whistles. But underneath the party, there’s a pull to get cozy with the truth about freedom.
How can something inherently unshackled and light feel so weighty if we let it?
Last week a conversation with Robert kept circling back to his impatience and keyed-up excitement over sitting so close to the end. (Think senioritis, only with a probation officer instead of a diploma.) Just before I left, the truth spilled out. Beneath his bravado and genuine relief lurks the fear that his freedom might pull him under. After years of being micromanaged, the rope’s got some slack. And it’s making him edgy.
On the infinitely less serious end of the spectrum, I’m a mom of young kids, faced with eight short weeks of summer-freedom. Counter to all the talk of slowing down and saying no, I’m compelled to cram it all in. Do everything. Go everywhere.
I want to hold life by the ears and live by the seats of our pants. I want art journals and smoothies for lunch, all-day swimming and road-trips on a lark. Hey, we can sleep in September. These long days are short in number, and I’m craving adventure with my favorite people. Come Labor Day, I want community to mean something even richer.
As usual, my common sense fails me. I wish some kids would run wild and unhinged while fearing another will do just that.
I honestly don’t know how any of this freedom will play out. I can’t project into next year, or even into August.
There’s a good possibility the well-intentioned art journals will gather dust, and our whimsical “plans” for adventure will eat dirt. We might wear the jagged edge of Summer burn-out faster than a popsicle melts in July, or we’ll show early signs of brain cell atrophy, and I’ll put us all on lock-down.
Hope as I do, I just don’t know if my biggest kid will navigate a new path into the kind of freedom that can’t be stolen away.
But we stand here at the edge of significant things, and I can’t help but feeling like our God who invented adventure and created community from a mash-up of the wonderfully weird has already written the story of this spectacular unknown.
God cares about our lives, the mountains and the molehills. He’s here with His party whistle, cheering us on.
As far as I’m concerned, Independence Day falls early this year. June 1st, to be exact.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.