So often, when we remember the magical moments of our childhoods, those memories are doused in golden summer light. Long days and sunburned noses and the smell of cut grass and hot asphalt and maybe the feel of popsicle melting down our hands. We remember heat shimmering off of cracked sidewalks and drinking tepid water from garden hoses and hair that felt crunchy with salt water.
We build our summer lore around these memories and they grow larger over time. They come to represent what we feel is missing from our adult lives, what we remember as carefree days of freedom and sunshine and no inhibitions. If we were lucky, the adults in our lives made food magically show up on the dinner table and our big complaints tended to be about bedtimes and dental hygiene and which snacks we could bring to the pool.
But in that summer lore we’ve forgotten the rainy days and the neighborhood bullies and the feeling that everyone in the world is headed to Disney World but us. We’ve forgotten being left out of flashlight tag and finding out our first crush didn’t like us back and the nagging worry of what middle school would be like in September. We’ve forgotten that we often felt at the mercy of grownups who didn’t really listen in a world we didn’t really understand.
Editing some images the other day, I caught myself feeling like I didn’t make much of my own summer this year, that it seemed to disappear before I quite got around to really engaging with it. I caught myself thinking that it didn’t feel like summer, not really, and I longed for those childhood days that seemed endless.
But then I remembered the infinite number of choices I made, from taking a minute to drink my coffee on my front steps, to hanging our hammock over a gurgling California creek, to setting my alarm for an hour earlier each morning so that I could squeeze in a little reading time before I began my days.There was a bit of ocean time and a bit of pool time and a bit of having-a-beer-with-some-friends time. But it’s true as well that there was also work and grocery shopping and getting the laundry folded on a Saturday.
It struck me again that while I am lucky to have so many wonderful memories from my childhood (and there are a TON of them- thanks, Mom & Dad!) and to be able to relish the lore of those long summer days, it’s actually the agency of my adulthood that holds the most magic for me now, even if that means no more meals showing up on the dinner table as if by their own accord.
As I look through my summer photos, there are certainly things I’d like to have done a bit differently, ways I could have maximized the opportunities around me a bit more. But whatever was there and whatever was missing was mine, and it can be easy to forget that choice is actually where true freedom lies.
These are oddly timed thoughts to share the week after daylight savings ends, but maybe it’s the falling snow outside that reminds me that summers aren’t the only places we store our childhood lore, not the only times we ache for what can feel like simpler times in our lives.
We can wax nostalgic or we can jump in and relish the opportunity to create our own lore here in our adulthoods. We can pine for days grown shiny and perfect in memory, or we can recapture a bit of that magic by generating it ourselves. We can long for the perception we have of the freedoms of childhood, or we can exercise the freedom that adulthood actually grants us in choice and agency.
Let’s get to lore-making, to magic making, to gratitude for the freedom to make our own choices. We can do it, you guys.