I am picking up sand-covered toys that the children played with all summer. Many are broken, some are faded by the sun, others missing some crucial attachment that holds water for blasting a sibling. I pick them all up and put them away. I fold up the soccer goal or at least try to. The directions perplex me, so I ultimately mush it into the storage closet.
Ah, well, so be it. It’s the best I can do on this beautiful late summer evening. I see a pair of shoes up on the hill, pink tennis shoes left by a child wanting to bury wiggling toes in the sand. I unravel a twisted swing, throw away a broken wading pool and shake the grit out of a damp beach towel. I am sad that summer is ending.
This is not the first time grief has found me today. I recognize that I am sad for losing something that once made me happy. I get that. I remember the words of Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
I remember another summer whose ending also made me sad. In the dazzling beauty of an Arizona morning, a loaded ’67 Chevy drove off the Navajo Indian reservation as my dog sat and watched me drive away forever. The dog’s name was Sangria, a golden retriever mix with floppy ears and a devotion to a 6-year old child. That summer Sangria and I ran free on the reservation while my father worked at the hospital and my mother allowed me to run.
That was back when I used to run as fast and as far as I could and yell to the wind, “My name is Maraya. I run like the wind.” Soon after that summer, I learned that people thought I was a bit odd running like that and yelling at the wind at the top of my lungs. Eventually, I also learned that running like the wind still wasn’t enough to make me fast enough to win my high school track meets. And soon after that I stopped running altogether, me and the wind that named me.
This summer I rediscovered the wind. I felt it in the breezes that blew through the screen porch where I would sit writing and drinking coffee, listening to my children play, with another dog at my feet. I felt the wind as my children and I raced our bikes down the hill that was at the midway point of our familiar path. But mostly I felt the wind at the lakeshore, blowing off the lake and reminding me of the beauty of life and love and children playing in the sand.
I wonder about what children know of life and death and the passage of time. How does a child who nurtures a grasshopper throughout a long summer’s afternoon not mind suffocating fireflies in washed-out kitchen jars in the evening? But each in our own ways, we all learned about the passage of time this summer, me and the children. As they rushed through the days with gleeful passion, I savored the moments, stored them in clean jars and then, as night descended, would set them all free as the children slept. I want to embrace this entire summer all at once in a great big beach towel hug and sit down with it snuggled against me, warm in the sand, and hold it close to me forever.
The day ends with the sun’s setting and the colors changing. As the sky turns to a deep, darkening blue, the colors of the dune grasses fade. The toys are picked up and put away. The beach towels spin in the dryer. With dirty feet in sandy beds, the children lie sleeping. The dogs lie at my feet wondering when I will go up to bed, so they can follow me. Instead I get up and open the door, and I feel the wind blowing. I give thanks for this day, this glorious summer, for the warm embrace of love and family, and for the wind that brought my own childhood back to me and helped me celebrate the passage of time.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children and three dogs. She can be reached at email@example.com.