In the seams between seasons, time leaks away. School days turn to summer days, and two weeks are gone before the calendar catches them in its grid, fallen leaves at the storm grate after a June shower.
Yesterday, we sat at the dinner table to eat for the first time in over a week. Four of us did, anyway. The fifteen-year-old left for summer camp a week ago Sunday, and we’ve somehow managed to avoid setting the table without him since then. He’s an assistant counselor this year, so he’s away for two consecutive weeks. I drove up the mountain to visit him on Saturday—two weeks is too long to go without hugging my boy. It’s an incredible place, and he’s having a great time, but I’m poignantly aware that all this is dress rehearsal for the sleep away camp of life.
The thirteen-year-old has a girlfriend—very quiet and easy-going, like him. I’m getting used to having girls around all the time now, and gradually coming to accept that I won’t always be the principal woman in my boys’ lives. There’s a whole lot of the usual parental anxieties about teenage romance, but it’s also sweet to see my sons grow into this phase of life.
I’m still the queen of the littlest who’s heart, though he’s a fifth grader now, and can hardly be called little anymore. When school starts again, he’ll be in his last year of elementary school, and last year of cub scouts. He spent the first week of summer vacation at a scout day camp, shooting arrows and BBs, doing arts and crafts, and learning to hula hoop. All excellent survival skills.
I’ve been watching my garden—the literal one—grow, too. Instead of packing lunchboxes and signing school papers, I spend the first hour of my mornings watering containers and beds, tying up vines, stalking insects, and trying to foil my cat, who thinks it is all a luxury litter box. It’s exhausting and consuming in the best possible way. It’s restoring and reordering my creative self at a deep, wordless level. In the garden, I don’t make anything happen. I just create the space and protect it, every day. It’s a good lesson.
Speaking of creating space, Phase One of the Teenage Lair is happening while the fifteen-year-old is at camp. I’m painting his bedroom in preparation to move our bed into it. When I started removing skater decals from the walls, giant strips of painted wallpaper started coming off with them. I’m afraid to find out that the ceiling is only held up by decades worth of wallpaper, so I’m not taking it down past that top level, but I loved the glimpse of the room’s earlier history. I thought of Helen, the elderly widow who lived here before us, who must have picked out that paper. She raised her own family in this house, watched her children grow in it, then out of it, tended her garden and home through the seasons, school days into summer, childhood to adulthood, time flowing away in floods and trickles.