“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
Once upon a time, younger, summer fluffed out like a terry cloth blanket over a wavy surface. My toes in sand-booties and my fingertips fragrant with paperback print, it seemed I wouldn’t have an alarm clock or a term paper or a snickering classmate to think about forever, or at least until I re-entered the corridors of the commonplace. I could fill in the hours with honeyed hopes, clandestine dreams and impeccable plans that could bloom into reality or puff away in the briny breeze.
I’m a teacher and, while summers have lost some of their magic as I migrated into adulthood, they never lost the lazy, blithe tranquility. There were still ten weeks every year to go on book benders and wonder if I should walk to the Thai place to get my dinner because I had too much time on my hands. And then I became a mother.
In April I had no children and in June I had three, and I’m not going to pretend like adopting from Poland was not my idea. I couldn’t wait to come home and construct macaroni necklaces with the air-conditioner on or sing along with campy CDs on the way to the public pool. I had forgotten what it was like to be school-aged and bored. I had forgotten the painful side of being a kid.
Remote-control jousts would ignite and I didn’t know if the victim was exaggerating or if the perpetrator was provoked or if an hour was too much screen time. My kids would beg for cheese sandwiches and then they would want chicken wings and then they would wonder what happened to the cheese sandwiches. They would snitch on their siblings in high-pitched whines when someone ate the candy from the top of the Yo-Crunch container. And then I would say those words my mother used to say that perplexed me and vexed me and made me think she was a cold-blooded prude: “WHEN. Will summer be OVER?”
I signed my kids up for the morning recreation program and afternoon swim lessons and started buying school supplies in July. I paraded them to the park the minute they shuffled in the door. And I oscillated idly on a swing while they built sand structures and chased each other across a short, timbered bridge. Often, while I chaperoned, the kids’ frenzy and zeal rubbed off on me and I would begin to make fervent plans for the future, which now involved a few more people. I picked them up from middle school and decorated sweet sixteens and wondered who they’d marry. And I realized what had returned: magic. Being a mother brings the magic back.
Sometimes, when I am tempted to yearn for a glass of the freedom that was the bedrock of my former life, I remember the hope and elation that my children have brought into my new one. And there’s really nothing else to wish for.