The summers of my childhood were spent splashing happily away in my grandmother’s pool with my cousins, who spent summer and Christmas vacations with our grandmother, Audrey. I’m an only child and my cousins were the brothers I never had. We passed the deliciously long, leisurely days of summer working up an appetite for the seemingly endless supply of ice cream bars and Popsicles Audrey kept on hand. Somehow our appetites were never ruined for the backyard barbecue dinners that were a perfect finish to our idyllic days.
Summers continued throughout my childhood in the same enjoyable manner until the summer after my junior year of high school. One day my mom and I were out to lunch. There was a slightly wistful look in her eyes and tone in her voice as she said, “This is the last summer.”
Ever? I thought. Maybe she knew something I didn’t. I asked her what she meant. She explained how next summer, I’d be getting ready to go to college and my cousins would be doing their own things, too. She said this was the last summer where the possibilities were endless and everything was before us.
That’s ridiculous! was my immediate teenage reaction. The possibilities are always endless. My cousins and I will always get together! I argued with my mom but even as I did, some small part of me was afraid she might be right.
My cousins did come out again the following year and I thought, See Mom? You’re wrong! It’s next summer and nothing’s changed! But whether I liked it or not, everything was changing – and all I wanted was for it to stay the same. I wanted those summers with my cousins at Audrey’s to go on forever.
As it turns out, my mom was right. It was the last summer my cousins and I went swimming and ate Popsicles, and even that was being phased out by time spent hanging out at the mall and doing whatever the heck it is you do when you’re a teenager. It was the last summer before majors were chosen and decisions were made. It was the last summer before paths were taken and innocence was lost. It was the last summer of my childhood.
I believe in many ways our parents cherish our childhood even more than we do. I can now look back and understand what it was my mom meant. My own possibilities may not be endless now, but I look at my son and see endless possibilities anew. All the world is before him, and I stand behind him anxious and thrilled as he prepares to take flight.