It’s hard to remember what the last day of school was like when I was six or nine. If I’m still and try to remember how it felt, I can’t recall much more than a general buzz because forever had come. It was summer.
I was going to camp in a few weeks. I would fly to California to see my dad. We’d get to drink Ocean Spray cranberry juice by our grandparents’ pool every single day. I’d get new jelly shoes.
My kids talk a lot about their feelings and parse things out in their branching and agile minds. They’re a pretty philosophical pair. And I’m wondering if I was too or if memory doesn’t hold so well to the big things.
There’s grief here. My son’s teacher is retiring and he will miss her. My daughter is aware and a little melancholy that not all of her friends will be in town together again until September. The last day of school is, as my son is fond of saying these days, “happy and sad. It’s bittersweet.”
If a sense of strife or anxiety or sadness was there for me, though, then I’ve forgotten it. All that’s left are keen, object-centered memories that prod one, maybe two, of the five senses at a time. I’m in the pool and the sun is so hot, it dries the tiles as soon as I splash water on them. I’m walking across the archery field at dusk and giant blind dragonflies fly drunkenly, droning as if they’re operated by remote control. Cranberry juice smells sharp against a fluted metal cup.
This is what I’ll try to remember this summer: my kids will remember experiences.
Talking is important. Encouraging emotional intelligence is valuable. Helping them keep up with their academic skills is valid, too. But going out and doing things will fix summer in their minds, give them something undefinable, irretrievable and solid.
At the farmer’s market, I hear tell of cherries and apricots. But the last week of school is far too busy for a trip even to the center of our very small town. We have lemon balm that has happily taken root along the fence line by the raised beds. I’ve always wanted to do something with it and yesterday I did. I grabbed a good handful and put it in a two-quart Mason jar with ¼ cup of honey (too sweet for me, perfect for the kids) and a wrinkly bit of ginger that I peeled, chopped and wrapped in cheesecloth. I poured boiling water over it all and took a good long walk with the dog. We both came home soaking and happy after I took the long way home and a rainshower sprang up. The tea was ready, promising something.