And so another summer comes to an end.
I’m good with that. Summer is my least favorite season. I feel that after living in Texas and Tennessee for five years each, I’ve done my time in mind-meltingly hot weather and oppressive humidity.
Wouldn’t it be nice if reality actually worked like that? But, no.
Lest you think it’s all curmudgeon all the time around here, there are things about summer that I like.
It’s nice to have no particular schedule to adhere to. If the kids make it to swimming lessons, great! If I call an audible and decide to spent the morning in my jammies, no big deal. We can go to the library _ or not. It’s all loosey-goosey.
Granted, after a few weeks of this, my innate scheduler is sighing loudly and looking at her watch _ but I shan’t dwell on that. This is about the good parts of summer.
I love that we have more freedom to pack up and go away. During the school year, our academic jobs and the kids’ school schedules make it nearly impossible to get out of town without Normandy Beach level logistics.
When the kids were younger, we would simply pull them out of school to satisfy our wanderlust. Now we’re in the meat of their academic lives. Yes, they can miss a day or two here and there _ but it’s really best not to.
Which isn’t to say that if some kind, benevolent soul gave us an all-expenses paid trip to Europe that had to be taken in October, I wouldn’t find a way to make it work. Because I’m not a total fool.
Now that the kids are older, we’ve developed a few traditions that I’d miss if summer suddenly dropped out of the year.
I would feel bereft without several hours spent reading while waiting for the end of swimming lessons or T-ball games.
It’s fun to mosey around the park while talking about nothing more important than the probability of rain. Also, I can kick both kids and the dog outside without fear that they’ll freeze.
I can plan whole menus around foods that can be grilled, which is, perhaps, my favorite method of cooking because I’m not responsible for doing it.
What I will miss the most, however, will be the caterpillars.
I’m not sure how this started. Perhaps it was suggested by my father-in-law, a retired second-grade teacher. Perhaps my husband is responsible because he saw a milkweed plant on a golf course. Or maybe the idea simply coalesced out of the heavy July air.
The origin matters not.
Every summer since the Diva was a toddler, we’ve collected monarch caterpillar eggs, which we nurture through their hatching and eating and chrysalising and emerging stages. It is one of the world’s easiest biology demonstrations and one that only requires minimal diligence.
Valuable kitchen counter space is eaten up by every last glass vase, jar or storage container that can be repurposed as a rookery. Extra milkweed leaves stack up on our deck, should there be a dining emergency. For the caterpillars, of course.
And every dang summer, I swear it will be the last one for this mess and madness. It’s enough to keep the dog and the cats and the kids alive. Why ask for more trouble?
And every dang summer, the same moment changes my mind.
I get how caterpillars work. They are, essentially, digestive systems with eyes whose sole directive is to eat as much milkweed as possible. They go from sesame-seed-sized to nearly thumb-length in a matter of weeks. They eat and eat and eat and eat until they just can’t eat no more.
What I don’t get is how the transformation works. This munching machine hangs itself upside down, splits its skin, reveals the green chrysalis that was underneath, and ... what?
My sense of wonder, long dulled by years of being an adult, is reawakened each time this happens. I would be less astounded if a bear came out of hibernation as a house cat or a gerbil. Each still has four legs and fur; the biggest change is one of scale.
The same can’t be said for caterpillars and butterflies. They don’t share that many components, really. Which says nothing about the wings.
Part of me wants to know what goes on behind the green curtain _ do the insect’s innards completely dissolve? are there bits that remain? where does it all go? _ but most of me enjoys the mystery too much to spoil it.
No matter how many times we do it, I am perennially astounded when I discover an actual butterfly hanging from the top of the jar. Every. Time.
I’m sure there’s some great analogy that can be made between this and parenting, about how kids are nothing but eating machines whose transformations are also mysteries, etc. There is truth in that.
But without my kids, I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience the simple wonder that takes place on my kitchen counter every summer. It almost makes the rest of the season worthwhile.
Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of “Sweater Quest.” Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/
And so another summer comes to an end.
- Parenting Imperfect
Of kids, phone calls and toilet paper
We have reached that golden age when both kids are responsible enough to be trusted alone for short periods of time.
A Halloween message to my future self
I'm writing this column a few days before Halloween. And I'm writing this mostly for my future self, as a reminder of the lessons learned this particular last week in October.
My brain is losing its connection to eyes, teeth
I'm beginning to have grave doubts about my brain's ability to remember things.
Celebrate small accomplishments of best laid plans
My summer plans always seem so reasonable when I make them in May. Come late-August, I wonder what the heck past-me was thinking.
Vacation was great ... until today
Up until today, our family vacation has gone much better than expected. Today, however, was a high entropy day.
Eight simple goals for summer
After a spastic end to the academic year, summer is finally here.
Optimism of the start of the school year is gone
I've got nothing left to give.
I'm relieved it's not just me
For the last few years, I've been convinced that I'm just harder on things than other people are.
A tactical error in the handoff
My kids are lucky enough to have half of their grandparents within a three-hour drive.
A potentially quiet afternoon interrupted by a dog and a balloon
The kids spent most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day bickering.
The dog is a getting to be an expert at training
This sentence took 20 minutes to type.
Bad things can happen when trends are no longer trendy
When I was a kid, it used to drive me bonkers that my mom didn't know anything about the most important things in my world. She had no idea what a friendship pin was or how you'd make one. She couldn't name any good band, i.e., the ones a pre-teen would listen to like Duran Duran or Wham. And she didn't find Robert Downey Jr. nearly as dreamy as I did.
Letting go can be more difficult for me than the kids
And so we enter the silly season, the one in which all of us run around like chickens without noggins.
Despite all the fighting, sometimes the kids get along
Going to church about much more than religious talk
After a good five years of fully intending to go to church but never quite making it out of the house on a Sunday morning, we've been attending since the beginning of the year.
Lessons learned from puppy a lot like those from kids
And so our first summer with a dog closes. Lessons have been learned, as I suspected they might. In case you are pondering a similar addition to your house, here are a few of them.
Beware the Zombie Squirrel
This is a story about Zombie Squirrel.
Strangest days are right before the school year ends
This month's column may be more scattered than usual. As I write this, we're in that limbo between when I'm off for the summer and when my kids are. It's one of the strangest times of the year.
Diva finally got what she wanted for half her life
I am weak.
- Of kids, phone calls and toilet paper