I grew up in Florida. This means the summers of my childhood were not magical, at least not directly. They were unbearably hot and humid, and it rained a lot. We weren’t much of a beach family, which left little in the way of feasible outdoor activities. We did catch pollywogs in the standing water in our swales, and I seem to remember at least some of those successfully growing into frogs and hopping away. My brother special ordered a pollywog with translucent skin, so you could see his inner workings, but the cat ate him long before he metamorphosed.
As it turned out, Florida summers weren’t so terrible, because they allowed me to develop my first true love: reading. I remember lots of trips to the library and endless hours curled up with a book. The magic of my summers was acquired vicariously, as I devoured biographies of Sacajawea and Harriet Tubman or raced through the Little House books or Spotted Boy and the Comanches for the 50th time. My mother would beg, threaten and bribe to get me outdoors for just a few minutes of fresh air.
Since living in Tennessee, or, more specifically, since having kids in Tennessee, I’ve discovered a whole new magic in summer. Today was chock full of it. We didn’t do anything spectacular. It was a very humble Sunday, complete with cleaning the dog’s ears and plumbing projects, but somehow, the magic showed up.
On a very prosaic run to the hardware store, Jon picked up an inexpensive water slide with a splash pool for the kids. It’s the perfect activity for our hilly backyard, and it resulted in hours of sliding, squealing and splashing. As evening came on, we ate chips and homemade guacamole and veggie dogs on the deck and finished with an apple pie I made this afternoon. The kids begged for one more go in the pool, which was now rather chilly, which led to the suggestion of a bonfire. The day ended way past a certain six-year-old’s bedtime, with mason jars and fireflies. He fell asleep watching for his trophies to flash a silent lullaby.
Perhaps the simple happiness of this day was magnified by two different reminders – a local family’s loss this past week and today’s tragic national headlines – of the infinite value of now. I was given today, with my husband and my kids, the sun and green grass, water from a garden hose, an apple pie and fireflies. I know how wealthy that makes me.