The music on the speaker crackles, “And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when…”
My girls are dressed down to their skivvies while Justin and I stand back, sipping PBRs. Ivy runs full-speed at the slip n’ slide, stopping abruptly where the yellow plastic meets the grass. With a grimace on her face, she emits a shocking howl as the crisp, frigid water sprays her soft, ivory skin. Lila’s next. She’s not as timid as her older sister. She runs toward the track, as fast as her small-for-her-age two-year-old legs will carry her. She flops down and slides forward, belly laughing while her entire body gets drenched, locks of wet hair hanging down over her clear, blue eyes.
We are counting down the days to Kindergarten. How many is it now? Less than 40. Oh my.
This summer. Our summer. It has been beautiful. Oh so beautiful.
Our shoulders are on fire as we hunch down, choosing the reddest, ripest strawberries. I peer over at the open door of the van to make sure Lila’s still asleep. We only pick four pounds, but when we get home we tuck them safely away in the freezer, in hopes that we can taste sunlight and love while watching the snowflakes fall.
It is night. We sit around the campfire with friends. Richard plays banjo, Emily, accordion. I chase Artemis before she runs off to the neighbor’s, while Justin cooks the girls more s’mores. We listen to the music in the humid night air and Artemis snuggles in close as I point out the fireflies, one by one.
Another day. We slap mosquitoes off our legs while we sit in the sandbox. Artemis joins our family while her mama and new baby sister Tala get to know one another. Lila jumps up to grab a sip of water from the hose and I run inside to surprise the girls with bubbles; big bubbles. “I’m going to try to climb inside one, mama,” says Ivy, with a huge grin on her face. If only she could.
And another day. We slide the canoe into the choppy water. Justin climbs in, and I heave the girls, one-by-one, into the middle seat. My life jacket is comically large, but it’s our first real trip as a family and none of us wants to be too surprised if we tip. We point out ducklings and mamas. We watch bubbles drift up from the bottom of the river, and a muskrat pokes his head out from under a lily pad for a brief moment. We hover our paddles above the water, trying not to disturb him so we can try to get a closer look.
Back at the campsite, I teach them the ways of the hatchet. I must’ve been around Ivy’s age when I first learned. I still remember the video of five-year-old me, chopping away at the old stump at the lake, just as we are doing.
That night, we climb into our sleeping bags, our sticky bodies too warm for the humid air the campground holds.
And soon, too soon, we will be chasing the sun, begging for it to stay a little longer. Begging for more long nights, more hot weather.
We’re not sure how we’ll make it through this winter.