Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Endless Summer

Of course, summer isn't endless. It can't be. And in fact, here in Alaska, summer is truly quite short compared to summer in other places. To many people, September is still summer, but by then, we Alaskans are in the depths of autumn. Still, there are two reasons why, for me, summer seems like it might just go on forever.

The first reason is quite simply that in Alaska, the summer daylight is endless. I got up at 5am to write this piece. The sun was already up. Last night, I stumbled into bed at 11:00 after a day of soccer camp, the lake, and lawn mowing. The sun was still up. Tourists are always amazed by it. To us, it's just the way things are. Some people buy black-out curtains because otherwise, they couldn't sleep. Not me. I have sheer white curtains. I revel in the light because I know what comes after. The consequence of all that beautiful light in the summer is that, in winter, we have the opposite. But I don't like to think of that now when we are quickly approaching the summer solstice when here in Fairbanks, we will celebrate a ridiculous 21 hours and 49 minutes of daylight. And I grew up in this area, so this feast or famine cycle of light and darkness is really all I've ever known.

That's one reason. The other is that, as a school librarian, I still get summer vacations. Yes, mine is a bit shorter than the kids' - ten weeks versus twelve - but I get a genuine, no actual work required, summer vacation. Oh, I work, I mean, I'm a mom, right? But it's what I want to do and when I want to do it. 

I have plenty of summer memories. There are the ones from my childhood: riding my banana seat bike all day and everywhere, popsicles and my mom's awful sugarfree Kool-Aid, days spent swimming at the gravel pit, those two blissful summers when we had a cabin on Quartz Lake, trying to make our own slip and slide out of Visqueen, playing badminton and croquet with my merciless older brother, long camping trips, and trips to my grandparents in Washington where it actually got dark at night.

Then I married and had children, and made new memories. My kids always wanted to be outside when they were little, and we spent countless hours in the backyard, often even cooking and eating out there. There were more camping trips - a little less fun when you're the one responsible for all the packing and cleaning - hiking, biking, parks, the zoo. Eventually, summer became consumed by soccer. When my kids are all grown and gone, which is an event now not too far in the future, one of my most enduring memories of their childhoods will be soft summer evening spent at soccer fields. There were undoubtedly rainy ones too, but those aren't the ones that stick in my mind. 

A summer tradition that has developed more recently is trying to get a picture of all five of my kids out on a river somewhere, ordered by height. As they get older, with lives of their own, coordinating this becomes harder and harder. In fact, coordinating anything with my entire family of seven is increasingly difficult. The pictures shown below are from 2014 and 2018, the most recent successful effort. I love how you can track the changes in the kids' growth. Child two is now the tallest, followed by child three, and I think that someday, the youngest may be at the head of the line.

One of my favorite personal summer memories - one that has nothing to do with anyone but me - happened several years ago. It was a particularly hot summer, and one of my favorite ways to escape the heat was in an Adirondack chair next to the ferns on the shady end of the house. That summer I sat there and enjoyed the cooling effects of Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy combined with ice-cold wine coolers. Escaping to the cold Russian landscape of those books was so perfect, that I don't think I'll ever replicate that feeling. It's quite possibly my favorite reading memory, and definitely in my top ten favorite summer memories.

No, summer can't go on forever, but here's wishing you all the kind of memories that makes it feel like it does.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful family--and 21 hours of light! It would take some time to adjust to that one.