We finally made it to the beach. Better late than never, but we aren’t exactly overwhelmed with lake options around here. When it comes to the difference between a summer in Michigan and a summer in Central Illinois—this detail tops the list. Especially for a little girl who asks to go swimming no less than fifteen times a day.
So we spent Labor Day weekend in Michigan, where lakes are so plentiful that we managed to get over an hour with the beach entirely to ourselves on a holiday weekend. This happened partly because the weather was cooler than usual; but mostly because when the locals realize summer is ending, they make that extra forty-minute drive to Lake Michigan.
We avoided Lake Michigan.
No matter how much Teghan loves the beach, crowds make her anxious. Which makes us anxious. And, she steals things. One moment she’s playing in the water…the next moment she’s playing in the water with a bag of chips in her hand. Where did those come from? Most parents are familiar with the panic that accompanies the knowledge that your child has taken another child’s food, or worse—is eating random garbage. It’s cute when a toddler does it. People understand. I’m here to tell you, the panic becomes amplified as your child ages.
(Our daughter has also never passed a straw she didn’t attempt to put her mouth on; which is always embarrassing, and sometimes gross. At some point during our holiday weekend she drank from an abandoned cup she found in a downtown park. Literally anything could have been in that cup.)
But this was one of the most relaxing beach trips we have ever had. For the first time, we got to be the parents who just sit on a blanket and watch, without worry, as our child plays in the water. No darting off into the wilderness, or suspicious gazes toward someone else’s ice cream for us to patrol. It was easy. Fun, even. The way beach trips are meant to be.
Of course, now that we have overcome our fear of the beach—summer is over. Tomorrow is October, and I could not be more ready for it. There is something pleasantly nostalgic about the last quarter of the year. It works the same way I also can’t shake the excitement of an approaching summer; I know it means sweating, increased contact with insects, and still going to work every day…. but a part of me will always believe school is ending and summer break has arrived.
Autumn makes me feel like I need to buy a whole new wardrobe. I suspect this is why I own an unbelievable number of sweaters. And no matter how broke I am, or how resistant I become to family gatherings—when daylight savings time ends, and I find myself walking into a store at 5pm in complete darkness, I somehow manage to feel a little happy about the Christmas music playing. That makes no sense. Right? I’ve been brainwashed, but it gets me through.
It is the holiday season. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Or whatever you celebrate. The point is, these things were exciting when I was a kid, and I am programmed to still feel that way. Even if I have no logical reason to. For example, I can dress up and binge on candy anytime—but I never choose to. On the other hand, I would love to eat chip and dip and stuffing every week, but I only allow it on Thanksgiving. Because otherwise, where would the magic be?
Teghan would prefer to keep the Christmas tree up year-round. She’s always asking for it and attempting to drag it out of the upstairs closet. In her world she can just set up the tree and Christmas begins. She truly thinks it works that way. Technically the concept of Christmas is beyond her reach, but she likes tapping on the ornaments, and she knows the tree is step one in the equation to that weird gift-opening thing that happens. So she is always trying to set the sequence in motion.
The magic ends after January 1st, when we embark upon the three longest months of the year. Once upon a time these were the days when random holidays came in the form of snow days; which were great, unless you lived in the house that frequently lost power and was not a priority stop for the electric company. The great ice storm of New Year’s Day 1985 extended our holiday break significantly—and we spent that time in a dark, boring huddle around a kerosene heater.
I am no longer brainwashed by snow days. I have never worked for an employer who believed in them, and nothing will suck the happy snow day nostalgia from your brain quicker than driving through a winter apocalypse.
But for now Fall is in the air. Beach days are over, and the long nights of winter can wait a little longer. It feels like a happening is on the horizon, even if it is just another ordinary day.