The Last Summer
It’s that time of year when the country is finally starting to shake off the shackles of winter (maybe). The weather is fiercely unreliable. Glimpses of sunny days ahead are swept away by cold winds and torrential rain. But there’s the hope of summer ahead. That’s what sends us out on bright mornings, only to shiver in still close-to-zero temperatures. Just enough sunshine to wistfully recall the lazier, warmer days of last year when we all luxuriated in the heat of the sun for a short while.
It’s a busy time. So many things on the go that it’s hard to know where to start on the rare occasion there’s a few minutes to spare. We find ourselves on the wrong side of the city from the friends we knew last summer. We spend time trying to sell a house. We spend even more time trying to find one to buy. A mountain of paperwork is piling up and demanding attention. We meet new friends nearby… travel the long motorway to stay in touch with older ones. We try to plan for future schools, additions to the family, changes of jobs. We go through the motions of the daily chores to keep us fed and clothed (some of us choose to be more cleanly clothed than others). There’s part-time work waiting to be done in the evenings that must somehow be prioritised over the lure of sitting on the couch with a cuppa and some chocolate to watch the current favourite tv series.
There’s a 3 year old that’s full of life and energy who has been cooped up indoors too much the past few months. We need to get out more, we need to spend our time more wisely while the freedom of summer is still there to be enjoyed. It doesn’t help that he refuses for some unknown reason to leave the house on the rare occasions when the weather is better than average. I struggle to invest enough of our precious time in the activities that we both enjoy doing once we make the effort. Trying to keep up with a small being that has infinitely more energy reserves than I. Some days this feels like yet another chore that has to be fit into the day.
Then we venture out on nothing more exciting than a simple walk. After an hour of cajoling on my part that has left me wanting to stay home by the time he agrees to put on his shoes. Once out, he races off in a sudden burst of energy while I trail along watching his antics. And it hits me then, as I watch him amble along, totally lost in his own make-believe world. This is the last summer. Next September he’s due to start preschool with all the routine that entails. Ahead of us are just a few short summer months before he’s gone to join all the other kids. This is the last summer where it’s all about him. Before he has the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a big brother. This then, is the last summer for just the two of us. Just the two of us, as it’s been for the vast majority of days for almost 4 years. Through the good days and the bad. The long sleepless nights followed by tired and emotional days. Sometimes it has felt like a prison wrought of just the two of us. Other times we’ve been cocooned in a timeless bubble of just ‘you and me… together’, needing nothing more.
I remember the trials of previous summers. The exhaustion. The tantrums. The ill-timed naps and nappies. The times when I wished I was working instead of dealing with a capricious child doing their best to break me. But what sticks out in my memories most are the snapshot moments. Sitting on picnic blankets in the middle of leafy green parks, the smell of cut grass in the air, and the drone of lawnmowers in the distance. Closely examining the little things that we don’t normally take time to notice, but are all around us if we stop long enough to pay attention to them. Eating fresh berries and and bowls of cool yoghurt in the shade. Playing ball. Just sitting still somewhere and watching other people go past.
This will be a tiring summer. Maybe not a summer of long sunny days. And it’s not the last ‘good’ summer we’ll ever have. But it’s the end of the summers we’ve known before. Next summer will be a new kind of one. Not better, not worse, just different. So in amongst the daily chores and life-changing decisions over the few months ahead, that’s something I will try to keep in my mind. Remember each day that this is the last summer. It’s not about what we do, it’s about being just the two of us for a little longer. Sitting in companionable silence in our bubble and watching the rest of the world race past. I suspect that’s what I’ll remember most about this summer. Not the struggles of life, but the small moments we’ll collect and look back on in future years with more than a hint of nostalgia. What will you remember?