The summer solstice arrived without much fanfare on Sunday afternoon, an annual celestial phenomenon marking the sun’s highest position in the sky. Sunrises and sunsets will grow closer together until winter’s arrival in late December.
But for most of us, summer isn’t about science – it’s about warmth, fun in the sun and a return to gentler and more leisurely activities. It’s a reflective season, a time to literally re-create ourselves and change up stagnant routines.
The late author Charles Bowden aptly noted, “Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
I also think about what has been.
June, July and August are months ripe with family memories. My mind wanders back to long car trips in our station wagon with our family of seven up and down the Eastern Seaboard, nights at orange-roofed Howard Johnson motels and lazy weeks in rustic cabins on lakes in Maine.
I learned to swim in those cold, crystal clear waters holding onto empty plastic milk jugs. We’d pick wild blueberries for pancakes, eat plenty of [Gifford’s] ice cream and then wile away the evening hours on the cottage’s screened porch, reading, telling stories and watching the setting sun shimmer on the water, casting a golden glow in the western sky.
Both of my parents are gone now, but my wife and I have tried to maintain these types of summer traditions with our three boys. We’ve been to beaches, the mountains and national parks – and even to one of the very same lakes in Maine my family (not Julie) visited as kids forty years earlier.
When Julie and I began the parenting journey, older friends and family would urge us to savor the years with the kids, telling us that the time goes quickly.
Those older, seasoned sages were right. Our sons are now 15, 10 and 9. It’s all passed in the blink of an eye.
By the calendar, childhood is 6,574 days or so (depending on leap year). Anything in the thousands sounds like a lot, but numbers are relative. Even a long life can seem short, especially to the person living it or the parent raising them.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the number eighteen – the summers in our children’s lives. Reducing 6,574 days to just 18 puts it all in perspective – along with putting a lump in my throat.
On one hand, I don’t want to mar moments by lamenting their passage, like parents who miss big events in their children’s lives because they’re so busy trying to capture them on a camera. There’s something to be said for just enjoying something detached from obligation. As the youngest among my siblings, I have very few pictures of my childhood – and yet countless colorful images of those years remain in my mind.
But the Psalmist’s counsel is undeniable, urging us to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (90:12). We’re more likely to appreciate something when we realize it’s finite and temporary.
There’s a part of me that wishes our boys could stay young forever. Watching them jump into the water with unbridled enthusiasm does my heart good. At the same time, every year with them brings new adventures and discoveries. I have a friend who says every season of their children’s lives are better than the last. I like that and agree.
In the last episode of the eighth season of the sitcom, “Seinfeld,” Jason Alexander’s character declares the coming warm months as “The Summer of George” by playing “frolf” (frisbee golf) and tasting summer ripened fruits and letting the juices drip down his chin.
Of course, as Christians, the sum and meaning of our lives can’t be reduced to just pursuing epicurean delights. Raising children is a privilege not afforded everyone. If the Lord has blessed you with young ones, count yourself blessed – and tasked with incredible responsibility and opportunity. It’s time to rise to the occasion.
If you’re a parent with children in the home, the summer of 2021 is just getting started, and the next few months hold the potential for memories that will last a lifetime.