The big kids played something called Purple Martins and Mosquitos, and I was awful at it.
The call was made by one of the finders. The game required that one person hide, and everyone else look for them. When each person finds the one in hiding, they hide too. It was played in the dark, when real mosquitoes were out. And I was, in my memory, the last one - every time I was allowed to play.
Today, that call is coming from Summer. I can hear it as sure as if it (and my children 3) were actually yelling the actual words.
We are decidedly Not. Ready, that is. In a house where every micro-event is another surprise (SURPRISE! Time to get up! SURPRISE! Dinner time! SURPRISE! Everybody needs to brush their teeth! SURPRISE! There's a soccer game!) summer is a tough one to wrap your brain around.
It comes on so fast and furious. And there is so much of it. Those first day camp discussions, in March - they're too early for me. I'm not capable. In March, I can barely believe spring is here - not over and done with and on to summer. Not yet. And that continues through April. And now, somehow, it's May. Which still sounds like spring to me.
By my daughter's birthday, which happens this week, the camp registrations are in full swing or closed out. They confuse me still, even now when they are suddenly very relevant.
When the end of summer hit last year, after so much of it had been so unstructured, there was some desperation to every self-entertained one of them - a deep-seated desire to hang with someone other than me, other than each other.
The Big One and I swore we would never have that unscheduled a summer again.
But that conversation was... ten months ago.
Thrilled at the prospect of public school for my youngest, I eagerly allowed for his summer to start when theirs does. Which means his school ends... when theirs does. He is four. He is, decidedly, a liability... more labrador puppy than boy. He has Things to Do, and is not often kept up with by older siblings treasuring their limited ability to escape.
They have, I think, two weeks each of day camp. And we all have a three-week roadtrip to Maryland - the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, for cookouts aplenty, vaguely tipsy parents, younger cousins, sparklers, a zip line, deer sightings, and boat trips - (though the dates are not quite set.)
For the rest of it, I am working from home - and the kids are...? Playing in the sprinklers? Riding scooters? Having water fights? Camping out in the basement? Going on picnics with mom on the 2 days/week she doesn't work? Hanging out in a friend's treehouse? Not watching pPod?
Wait. That doesn't sound so bad.
From this vantage point... now, with the house almost quiet and a lawnmower buzzing in the background... as the air gets a little heavier and the hydrangeas think about bursting into bloom... right now, this minute... that summer sounds quite good.
If only we could ALL recharge, with little expected of us, for weeks at a time. WIth nothing more pressing in front of us than the application of sunscreen and bug spray.
This is how we had summer. And if I allow myself to remember completely correctly... the days were sometimes crushingly boring. But only if I let myself recall that. What my front brain recalls is the sheer imagined bliss of it.
I think we all need empty spaces in our days. Time and room to explore. Growing outside of our cages. I think dirt is good, and children living in a neighborhood where they are safe to roam and return home to a whistle. I think electronic stuff should be shut off, and art supplies should be within reach.
I think there is charm in having the best thing you can imagine be a swim in a friend's pool and an ice cream from the ice cream truck. I think you should have to come up with new games for kick balls - and that all the games should have deadly titles. (Slaughterball. Smear the you-know-what-i'm-talking-about. Death by Ball. That sort of thing.)
I believe, when you are seven, your biggest goal of the summer might as well be riding down the biggest hill of your street with no hands. When you are nine, you should get to ride to a friend's house on your bike. Alone. And when you are four? You should sometimes tag along, and sometimes get to play with friends all your own. That live on your street. And like super hero capes.
Besides, that frustration that comes at the end of the summer? Smells like a great recipe to cook up a little enthusiasm for 4th, 1st and pre-K.
And that settles that.
This week, Annabeth turns seven. I'll close my computer of all the summer camp options still available, and instead make plans for Annabeth's new bike. And possibly a kickball. After all, it'll be cheaper than day camp, a lot more memorable, and far more useful in the long run.
Summer's calling. We're ready enough.