"They keep feeling like long weekends," Sofie said this Monday morning as she picked up her backpack and headed out the door. "Why?"
I remember the first time she uttered the dreaded three-letter word. It was my birthday a few years back, and she was just getting into her evening bubble bath. It started off as several different questions, "Wha-who-howwwwwwwWHY?" This truly was the death knell for the last shreds of my parental sanity.
On the other hand, Monday morning's WHY was definitely worth examining. The previous weekend we had started off with baseball practice, a bike ride, then heading to Hyannis for our long-delayed digital television purchase, some indulgent investigation of our new HD channels, then the next day's riding for the Pan Mass Challenge in the Brewster in Bloom Parade, a late lunch at Friendly's, some helping in her neighbor's garden, and finally watching a movie on that new HDTV.
Her assessment the next morning was that it felt like a five-day weekend. And this morning, her aforesaid observation, and wondering about that.
I replied, "Well, maybe with the nicer weather, we can do so much more." Might be that with my seven-year-old Barbie Tomboy now passing four feet in height, her world of possible activities is growing as fast as our well-watered yard.
Last week I introduced the concept of "Time flies when you're having fun." I'll hold off for now on the related idea, "Summer is why we suffer through nine months of winter here."
When I returned from Germany with my baby girl, alone, in 2004, it was with the desire to have her grow up much as I had. In a safe small town near the water, surrounded by a large extended family. And while she's had a fairly active childhood, with summer rec programs, soccer, skating, tennis, South Beach campouts, and all the rest, I think there's a certain shift in consciousness that comes about this age following first grade.
Now proficient in reading and math, she not only understands the concept of putting money into her savings account - she can make a sign for the much-anticipated cash cow of a lemonade stand. She's started writing her own stories, which leads to a desire to explore. And unlike when she was younger, she has a greater physical ability to explore in relative safely. I don't have to keep an eye on her 100 percent of the time, although I am definitely the preferred playtime companion. Still.
In February, when we had to take three different flights to get to Munich, I got a preview of this new level of confidence. She was frequently ahead of me with her carry-on, as we navigated from one side of a large airport to another. She could read the signs for the terminal or gates, and in reading the clocks be able to tell how much time we had to get there. The concept of currency exchange still was tough, but then again I've traveled with a few adults who after a week were still struggling.
So if this is how we are heading into summer, I can only imagine what I will have on my hands by the end. By Labor Day, I am probably going to be looking back at countless skinned knees, bug bites, bruises, cuts from stepping on shells or sea glass, burns from getting too close to the grill or campfire even though I said stay well away, near-misses with oblivious drivers, sugar high crashes, episodes of getting separated in large crowds, jellyfish stings, waterlogging, stepping in God-knows-what and tracking it in the house, ice-cold garden hose rinse-offs after the beach, slips over the side of the boat or canoe, grumpy days from "sleeping" out in the tent the night before and not getting any rest, bugs eaten while berry picking, rashes from experimentation with poison ivy resistance, a few cat scratches, two bee stings, and at least one random dog bite.
That is, if we are lucky. Given that she will likely survive intact, the greatest challenge she may face is remembering to regularly write at least some of it down. This may be the year of the summer journal - to remember why we're here.
Read this and Andy's other columns online at The Cape Cod Chronicle.