By Tammy Ellingson
Every year I imagine that summer will be a time of enormous life changes, rejuvenation, expanding my intellect, consciousness, weed-whacking radius, and language abilities.
This summer I planned to read for both pleasure and profession, to plan for the upcoming school year, re-tile both bathrooms (note to self: neighbor quit job in order to re-tile ONE bathroom this summer, hmmm), paint all household woodwork, kitchen cabinets, learn a bit of Danish and French in preparation for our two exchange students this year, get back to learning piano, and teach my son to drive.
This summer got off to a bit of a slow start thanks in part to a very snowy winter and many school days off, which tickled our Finnish exchange student, Luca, to no end. Apparently in Finland they don’t get to take a day (or nine) off of school for two inches of snow and icy streets, go figure?
We enjoyed those days off, until June rolled around, and school kept rolling as June kept rolling. I’ve never before had to consider my 4th of July fireworks plans on the last day of school, nor considered my back-to-school purchasing list on the heels of pulling out of the school parking lot. And, then there’s that teaching summer school thing.
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Summer school is almost over, and when it is, I’ll be left with about three weeks in which to accomplish all of the summer bucket list items, and actually leave town, without a sleeping bag. I’ve had far too many stay-cations and camping vacations. Camping can be fun, but it is not a true vacation. As someone has assuredly said, camping is doing everything you do at home, except without all the conveniences and a lot more dirt.
So something’s gotta give – either my inflated expectations, or my definition of the season. In the Northwest, we always say that summer continues to show up well into October. It’s not the tasks on the list that I’m really most worried about, but the summers, with empty days, that I have left with my high schooler!
Next summer will be the summer before he’s a senior (and everyone keeps reminding me of that, like I don’t know it already, so stop people!!!), and suddenly all the things we have to do, seem to be taking away from the lazy, relaxing summers I had in my mind as a mother when he was a baby.
This summer that baby of mine needs to learn to drive! Yes, it should have happened last year, but life. So, it’s back to school we go — to the parking lot anyway, to make loops upon loops upon loops. Signaling, slowing, speeding up, turning, stopping, not screaming, not braking from the passenger side, keeping my arms at my side, trying to not take flight as we go over speed bumps, parking, backing up, unclenching my jaw, and forging ahead again.
Soon we’ll have to leave the school parking lot and get on an actual road, just like he will soon leave the relative safety of high school and home, and head to college.
There are so many other things left to teach him, and for me to learn.
However, this summer we’ll focus on letting him take the wheel, of the car, and his life. He’ll need to be able to leave our driveway and find his own way down the road. Just when I’m about to lose my ever-lovin’ mind, and panic that we only have a couple summers left as a family, he graciously and kindly reminds me that he’ll be back to spend time with us.
Even when he’s in college, I know there will be summers, and seasons, for us to still do things together as a family. Somewhere down deep he has learned to be kind and compassionate to his old folks, to calm our fears, and reassure us.
Once upon a time it was my job to calm and reassure him, but in the last couple of years a slow hand-off seems to have occurred. Oh, I know there will come a time when he is busy with his own life, and we won’t be front of mind, just like with us and our parents.
One part of me can hardly wait to see all the amazing things he gets to experience in his life, and the other part will forever be trying to catch my breath during this lifetime whirlwind called parenthood. I guess we are both learning to ease off the brake, accelerate carefully, check the mirrors, and be on our way, and it will take several seasons.
Tammy Ellingson is a teacher (which means eternal student), wife, mother, and writer who needs to spend less time wringing her hands and screaming while following the politics of the day, and more time creating a livable and loving present and future for those around her. Oh sure, she has hobbies, who doesn’t? However, abandoning them as quickly as she begins seems to be her most practiced hobby to date. She should probably take the hint from her son and spend some time with the comedy writing book he gave her for her birthday. It may be the best retirement investment she has.
Editor’s note: A mutual acquaintance recommended Tammy to me when I was looking for Hillsboro-area residents who’d be interesting in writing for the Hillsboro Argus. Tammy proved to be not just a capable writer with strong opinions, but someone with a great sense of humor. Five years later, the Argus is history but Tammy is still writing for me. Win!
Tomorrow: Michael Arrieta-Walden, Making a better life for all of us