The anvil of clouds, against the nearby mountains, rise with the ninety to triple digit temps. The dog days of summer have arrived.
Watching my sons grow, inch by incremental inch, has made me contemplate the summers past and how much our household has departed from our “normal.” In the evenings, after work chaffeuring children here, there and everywhere, I float in the deep-end with the hubs. Our three children no longer play in the pool choosing instead, to sit amongst whirring fans and brightly lit screens; furiously typing.
I am mute with shock when my middle son delivers a bag full of items, disassembling my corkboard in the den with all of my children’s drawings, pictures and various pursuits. I stare at the empty rectangular board and ask if he wishes to fill it with other things. But he answers, simply, that he likes it bare and wants to keep things simple.
The youngest son mentions that the Hot Wheels table that sits in the bedroom should probably be disposed of. My sons all were fanatically enamored with Hot Wheels and I stand limply, inquiring if he is sure? This was the boy who adored Hot Wheels, and the cars would move from one end of our home to another. Thousands of these metal die cast vehicles sit within the drawers of this table and after some discussion, we jointly decided that he can choose some to display in a plastic wall display case. But it is I who makes this suggestion; loathe to give away the cars that remind me of their youth.
I had perused our vast collection of books, searching for my favorites to read to my young sons. As a baby shower gift to a dear girlfriend I had been inspired to ask the various members of our bookclub to share their most favorite baby board book. I searched my shelves, touching the well-worn covers of my favorites and my eldest watched as I repeatedly scanned for Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond. It had been one of his favorite books and, upon sharing this with him, he had no recollection of the rhymes about friendship. I tried to recite it from memory, just as I did with Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise-Brown or But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton. He shrugged his shoulders dismissively.
My mind remembered how he’d finish the rhyming sentences, impatient to turn the colorful pages. It was this son that liked to be read to, but did not want to learn how to read. When he was in first grade he had been behind the curve, refusing to use phonics and soon after, was transplanted into a new school three months into his first grade year. It had been the board books that would soothe him; the familiarity of the rhyming pages bringing comfort in our transitional, military life.
I search for displays online ($139 for a 100-Hot Wheels display case) and share this with the hubs. He is quiet. He, too, is unwilling to dismantle the Hot Wheels table. I ask for his assistance to reach the high shelves, to help me find the board books of years past. We stare at the empty bulletin board with multicolored thumbtacks in our den. In the evenings, floating in our pool, we observe the clouds, the sunsets and the trajectory of our ever changing days.
I sat bundling one hundred size 1 diapers, tucking and building a tribute to my boys’ childhood. What began as a simple gift became a return journey to my favorite things, particularly books. As each member of our bookclub shared their favorite board books I found that their book choices were almost exactly the same as my own. Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Sandra Boynton’s, The Going to Bed Book, Wise-Brown’s Good Night Moon, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Robert Munsch’s I Love You Forever (tear jerker), Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham , Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Martin, Archambault & Ehler or I Love You Mommy by Harker & Stephenson. I found myself buying Mustela baby products; remembering the eau de parfum sprayed upon my boys’ clothes. My sons, in turn, watched me rubberband and build, reminiscing with me of stories of their not so distant past. The rhymes to the board books were recalled; memories refreshed. My sons enjoyed hearing vignettes of their past; pieces filed but not forgotten. It was in the building of the diaper cake that brought me joy, instead of sorrow.
It is in parenting that I have learned to become selfless; to give more than to receive.
To love something; knowing that, in the end, you must let it go.
When I married my husband we were joining two separate individuals to become one entity. The product of our love would bring us together. When I birthed each of my children from within my womb, the separation process began from their very first cry. The product of our love would allow us to be individuals; to be stronger apart.
I think of the legacy I want for my children; the things I want them to honor and remember. Faith. Family. These are things we model for our family of five.
And so I add board books into my diaper cake; freed from the guilt of the not-so-grand summer vacation. With my life transition into the family business our sons must come to work with us instead of movie or mall dates, beach days or theme parks. I am unable to entertain our boys with exciting things to do; instead tasking them with things to clean around the shop or reading to pass the time. Various camps and weekenders are sprinkled throughout the weeks but our days remain the same. They are monotonous. Boring.
Gone are the days where kids play outside until the streetlamps turn on or work summer jobs to earn extra money. Instead, our generation of kids sit amongst air conditioned homes, socializing through cyberspace and wireless networks. Playing sports for fun has turned into traveling, competitive teams to meet NCAA eligibility. Love of learning has become extracurricular tutoring. The arts and music are for enrichment; not passion. Our overscheduled lives have left out time for leisure in lieu of productivity and suitability for college admission panels.
As I went through a summer reading binge of: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, The Paris Wife, The Goldfinch (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize), The Lowland (short listed for the 2013 Man Booker Prize) and currently The Dolphin Way; I discovered the legacy I want to leave my children. When the drawings, medals, pictures, board books and Hot Wheels disappear from their lives the one trait I hope to leave them is this.
I want my sons to love to read. To appreciate literature.
It is one of the few pursuits in life that does not require money, education or status. It’s only prerequisite: time.
I thought about this as I stood amidst a fellow mom’s extensive library, touching the spines of her vast collection of books during my girlfriend’s baby shower. Although my sons joke that our bookclub does more socializing than discussing books; it is the love of reading that I hope they’ll remember. But it is in our discussion on diverse topics, cultures and views that allow us to learn. It is not just the pursuit of reading that I want my boys to discover. I also want them to be able to experience things unknown and most importantly, to share these things.
The art of communication.
It is not in the book learning that allows a person to grow and mature. It is in the sharing and socializing; in navigating amongst diverse people that expands horizons and introduces new ideas. My sons’ actions, this summer, silently communicated their progression away from early childhood.
It is in giving up the old things that opens the door to allow in the new.
A chapter is closing and I bookmark the pages; clinging to memories I want to remember. And though the physical reminders ebb away; it is filed; instantly retrievable in my mind. I always sigh at the end of a great book; happy to have the privilege of reading it. But another book awaits to be read. All I have to do, is open it.