This is not very adult. This is kind of childish, actually. But here goes.
The other day, we were in Wal-Mart and giggling through the toy section—offering Star Wars action figures to Andrew—when we passed by the skateboards and scooters. A sense of longing filled my heart that I can trace back to my adolescence. I found myself pulling a box off the shelf as Thomas looked on, bemused and finally realizing I was serious about wanting one.
Let me back up.
So, it’s summer in Texas, which means school ended in May and the heat immediately climbed to dangerous heights. Thom and I are home with Andrew all day, from 7 in the morning when it’s 80, to the afternoon which threatens to bubble the paint on the walls, to 7 at night when it gets back down to the 90s. And let me tell you, Andrew is having the time of his life. He is SO happy to have us both home with him. We pack the day with air-conditioned activities—he’s been swimming, he’s run around Cabella’s, he’s even started hanging out with this girl he likes. The other day they experienced frozen yogurt, and Andrew experienced gagging on (and spitting out) a gummy frog, while the poor little girl watched in horror and disgust as he continued to eat yogurt, unfazed. Poor thing, she’ll never unsee that. And now that he has all this time to talk to me, he’s got a lot to say. He talks about the girl, of course. And he’s roped me in to play pretend with his Star Wars toys—games like “The Porg Eats All the Trains” and “Darth Vader needs to go night-night.” Like I said…he’s having the time of his life.
And that’s what summer is for—summer in that peculiarly American style, the season for childhood (much more than Christmas, in my opinion). The season for leisure and long trips and treats and late bedtimes and lazy mornings. Andrew has been skipping naps, then passing out in the evening and sleeping until nearly eight a.m.
For me, summer was trips to my grandparents’ house in East Texas—they lived in a big columned house with a pool and a lawn that stretched to the horizon. There was a porch you could sit on while the wind-chimes played, and to this day when I think about relaxing, that’s where my mind goes. We didn’t wear shoes for days at a time, and didn’t worry about it. The pavement was hot, but the dewy grass was thick and cool. Sure, you got bit by stuff—sure, the bats came out at night and the yellow-jackets were a constant nuisance, but it was no big deal. Everything was good out there. It burst with color from the sky to the ground to the flowers and the insects. You didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Now that I’m a teacher, summer is like waking up from a year-long dream. A year filed away, and another one won’t be along until the days start shrinking again. And time to spend with Andrew—that’s mostly what it means.
During the summer I watch him from all angles as he runs in a circle around the living room, going from lightsabers to puzzles to blocks to his Sit- and- Spin that he can’t quite figure out. I listen to him discover new words, repeating the last third of every sentence I say, and realize he’s made up some catchphrases—“doooop!” Is his favorite at the moment, and when we want to see if he’s awake in the car we’ll yell out, “can I get a doop?”
I chase him and let him chase me. I watch him try and jump, then end up just sort of shaking his hips in a weird little dance. I take things out of his mouth like I did when he was a baby. I take him swimming at my parents’ pool and smear sunscreen on his pale little nose and ever-widening shoulders. I take him to the zoo and watch him as he stands, delighted, eye to eye with the baby monkey who blinks languidly at the human with the monkey backpack—if the monkey’s weirded out, he doesn’t say anything. Maybe he, like Drew, is just happy to have the attention.
And he’s testing us too—making sure we’re still going to say no in this grand world where he has all our attention all the time. He asks for things a million times, giving permission to himself— “Star Wars? Okay. Crayons? Okay. Snack? Okay.” I answer the same way, “no, not now,” every single time like I’m being interrogated by the Stasi. Don’t vary your answers, don’t give him an opening…
He acts like he’s going to hit someone, then says, “cwib?”
“Yep,” I reply. “Hitting people means you have to go in your crib.” And he’s spent some time there—sitting and screaming, “My toys! My diaper! My mama! My daddy! My water!” Although I will say that his tantrums have become less boisterous. Now they sort of feel perfunctory, like he’s just making a point. He’ll flop on the ground and let out a half-hearted whine, then it’s over. Maybe he’s just hot…it IS summer. And he doesn’t want to miss anything. He’ll lie on the floor fussing, but one mention of, “hey, do you want to color?,” and he’s up and at ‘em again, the momentary despair forgotten.
What does any of this have to do with the scooter in Wal-Mart? Well, I was inspired by Andrew. He lives in the moment, and he’s not embarrassed to like things. His face when he sees the little girl he likes is really something. He’s fine with not knowing things—he scooped up an armful of fishing poles at Cabella’s, claiming them as “my lightsabers?” He’s fine with not knowing what they are. He’s fine with having an unpopular opinion (although I could do without the tantrums). And he races everywhere he goes with the wind in his hair.
So I was inspired to buy a scooter so I, too, could feel the wind in my hair.
Look, I know I’m thirty. And I know it is kinda stupid to buy a kids’ toy scooter for yourself. But I could afford it, and I’m under the weight limit and I’m age 5 and up. So I went for it, and when it was still 80 degrees out one morning, I took Scoot out for a roll. Yeah, it made me really tired—I forgot how much you have to work your legs. And cars have gotten quieter since I was a kid…one went around me and I didn’t even know it was there. But I had a great time, even when I forgot that Scoot wasn’t a bike and dismounted too quickly—he swung around and banged my ankle up something terrible. Anyway, Scoot is stabled at the moment until it’s cool enough to take him out again, because it’s summer, and that’s the time to do the fun stuff. Even grown-up adults dream about summer. And one thing I sometimes lose sight of when I’m working on The List is that part of being an adult is not worrying about looking childish. I think C.S. Lewis said that.
thanks, team. 🙂