There’s a vibe in the Summer, a casual relaxation of standards developed since early childhood. Food goes from being something carefully crafted and meant to be eaten sitting down, with a properly set table and napkins, to stuff that’s sloppy and sticks to your face, or thrown together with the vegetables someone left in your car (because it’s how it happens here. We don’t lock our cars out of fear of theft, we lock them because someone might leave us zucchini.)
Even though I’m in school this Summer, and have all these adult responsibilities, my standards have relaxed. I’m staying up late (past 9! So carefree!), and actually sleeping past 5! I know by August, the relaxed standards will get old, and I’ll be ready to return to a strict schedule. Only, now that #4 is a Graduate, and has a Real Job and all that, the whole thing is going to have to get figured out all over again.
You know, I am so proud of him! He gets himself up at 5:30, I hear the shower, and him and his steel-toed boots clomping down the stairs. There’s the clattering and banging of a skillet and maybe the grinding whir of a blender as he fixes his own breakfast, and then he leaves. Like a real grown up. I guess he IS a real grown up now, just like his brothers. My word, what happened?
I don’t think the reality of it will set in until Fall, when he would be going to school. (24 years of sending people to school, folks. Can you believe it?) And that’s when I’m going to establish yet another New Normal. While I will never be childless, (Lord willing!), my responsibilities are rapidly shifting from other people to..well. Myself.
Learning how to care for myself is a challenge. Realizing it’s ok to think about my own needs and desires is coming painfully, because Moms are supposed to put everyone else’s needs before their own and having done that for so long, changing the thinking is slow and almost painful. Now I am starting to understand the Empty Nest thing. Not only are the kids gone, (ish…#4 still lives here but he is so darn independent), I don’t have Himself to cook for. I mean, the nest is TOTALLY EMPTY.
It makes me think…I actually really could decide to take a road trip somewhere. Just pick a place and go. How novel! I could pin a map on the wall and throw a dart at it. Or I could do the New Google Way and let Google pick a place, and simply go there. Without consulting anyone. And if someone protested, making noises about delicate women or whatever, I could ignore them because ain’t no one the boss of me!
Of course, I’m unlikely to do that. Uncertainty and all…But just thinking about it, knowing I could, if I wanted to has a certain excitement to it. Summertime means RoadTrips. Maybe I can do the rest of Route 66. We never did get from Joplin to Chicago. Or Amarillo to San Diego. I do still have the convertible. It could be fun. But who would go with me? Trips like that require 2 people, a Thelma and a Louise (well ok, maybe without the crime).
I went to a friend’s house last night, and upon leaving around midnight (SEE? I never do that…or never did, but apparently now I do), realized how completely Summer it felt. Here, it gets humid and heavy, even with the sun down a few hours, the air was warm, still, and kind of dense. She has spanish moss in her trees, and with all those bits, it was so very Southern. My mind immediately fell back to Summers of my childhood in North Georgia, with nighttime neighborhood games of Spotlight Tag and sitting around talking about (whatever it is 14 year old girls talk about). There were spontaneous spend-the-nights, and cicada-shell hunts. We had lightning bugs to collect, too. I remember falling asleep to the thrum of the attic fan, or the sound of a whippoorwill in the woods behind the house. I grew up in the era of mothers shooing their kids outside in the Summer, with instructions to not return until we were called in for supper. The heavy heat and humidity at midnight last night wrapped me in the blanket of memories, and I savored them for a while. I feel very privileged to have experienced those things.
Now, it’s time to make some new memories. I’m not sure how those will unfold, but I am grateful to have friends with whom I can make them. Summer seems exactly the right time for that. I can concentrate on this, instead of tending to a bunch of people, all regimented with responsibilities of school and that ingrained sense of what Motherhood is supposed to be like. Now I can be…whatever. I’ll let you know when I get that figured out.