The boys and I enjoy looking at Facebook’s “On This Day” feature to see posts from the past. When there’s a video of them as preschoolers dancing in my parents’ kitchen or saying their bedtime prayers as toddlers, it helps me to remember how quickly time flies, to savor each day, and try not to waste as much energy yelling or allowing the insignificant too much space. Ethan also reads past blog posts that pop up on that feature and enjoys strolling down memory lane, so much so that he asked me to write an entry about our summer.
This blog does not get as much activity anymore. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that I have less inspiration and desire to take the time to sit, think, write, and read; I extend that lack of desire to others. If it’s not a quick picture on Instagram or a short tweet, it may never be consumed. Yet after Ethan’s request came again, I realized that these posts are not for consumption. They are for our own remembering: recording the present so that one day in the future we can look back on the past and relive the many blessings (ups and downs) of our fleeting life and give thanks for all of them…even the minutia. So 20 year-old Ethan, this is my little gift for you. Be sure to return the favor and call your dear old mama after you reminisce about your 11 year-old self’s summer.
Act 1: Camp
For the first time, both boys went to a week long sleep-away church camp. Even knowing they would be with friends, I was nervous about signing them up and couldn’t sleep the night I registered them. There were many fervent prayers surrounding the decision. Then, by the time camp actually rolled around, this (3 weeks into summer break) mama was READY. Mike and I had an enjoyable date WEEK, and the boys (who had some anxiety beforehand) had a blast…without any electronics…who knew that could happen?! They came home tired from fun and wanting to go again next summer. This is the beginning of a beautiful tradition.Act 2: Midwest Tour
For those like us who do not live near any family, it is a precious thing to be able to spend face-to-face time together though living thousands of miles apart. We try to make it home at least once a year. We typically fly in and out of Chicago where we lived the first 8 years of our marriage, and then drive all across the Midwest to visit family. This year we started in Michigan where my mother-in-law lives.
Then we hit Chicago where Mike grew up and the boys were born. Sigh. Just driving through the city streets made me emotional with all the wonderful memories flooding my mind. There is never enough time to see all the people we love and miss, but this time we did have a little longer visit for being what we have finally come to realize we literally are now…tourists.
Last year the boys and I discovered the Hamilton soundtrack, like much of crazed America and the world. On the morning of our anniversary in March, I opened my card from Mike to see a surprise – he had bought Hamilton tickets for the 4 of us for that summer. Turns out he had purchased them back in the beginning of January. We have been anxiously awaiting July 12th for many long months.
I will never forget my very first musical experience. It was when I was in middle school, attending a CTD camp at Northwestern, and got the chance to go with my floor mates and our counselors to downtown Chicago to see the new broadway sensation, Les Miserables. My small town self had never heard of it, but I can still remember all my senses being completely overwhelmed from our balcony seats. I fell in love almost 30 years ago and have never fallen out of it. I was so excited to be able to share my boys’ very first broadway musical experience with them, also in Chicago, also in balcony seats, and also with a soundtrack that they have already committed to memory. They were sleep-deprived from 5 nights in a row of late night sleepovers with different friends, but they were still leaning forward in their seats. There is a reason for all the buzz, and I’m so grateful we got to experience it ourselves.Next stop was Indianapolis where my brother and his family live. The boys would have been happy just hanging out with their two cousins but also got treated to super fun things like the JCC swimming park, an outdoor symphony concert John Williams Strikes Back, and a minor league baseball game whose theme was Star Wars and Legos. It’s like Indy knew we were coming! I was glad to be able to attend the monthly diversity discussion meeting at their church. It was a treat for me to meet many of the people who have greatly impacted my brother and sister-in-law just by being in genuine relationship with them. At the meeting, I was happy to share my own testimony of how God brought about a heart for racial unity within His body. It is exciting to see what He will continue to do with this group. We all then drove to Cincinnati to meet up with my parents. Not living in the area I grew up in means that moments like these stand out, where I get to witness my own kids doing the very things I did as a child. Going to the Kings Island amusement park is one of those fond childhood memories that I get to relive with them. My brother and I used to ride the Racer repeatedly, and this year my boys and their cousin Thomas did the same thing. Of course, now after so many decades, we realized that those old wooden roller coasters are rickety enough to give one a major headache. For memory’s sake, I not only rode it, but taunted my children whose blue racer car lost to my red racer car. It had to be done.
After a couple nights in Cincinnati, the boys and I followed my parents back to West Virginia to stay at their home for a few days. It was short but always sweet to be with my folks, enjoying mom’s homemade kimchi and mandoo (Korean dumplings), talking with them at the kitchen table until time escapes us all, and letting the boys get spoiled rotten by their too willing grandparents.
Act 3: Home Hot Home
We had an awesome three weeks away, but we also enjoyed our time at home. One of the highlights was The Loft Cinema which is a nonprofit local cinema and Tucson gem. What else to do when it’s 110 degrees outside but watch a movie! But not just any movie. The boys’ first exposure to the Loft was attending the family night of the Social Justice Summer series. (Social Justice Summer series! Every movie had a guest or panel for discussions afterwards. This theater was where Mike and I got to hear and meet Clint Smith speak on his Counting Descent tour. I highly recommend that book of poetry; it is short but deep.) It was a collection of Middle Eastern short films telling the stories of children. I will never forget the last film documenting the experience of a Syrian refugee boy. When he was reunited with his parents after an agonizing year apart, I looked over and saw Connor wiping tears from his eyes. Our hearts were breaking together; I hope that expanse of humanity lasts a lifetime.We also took advantage of their annual kids film festival. Every day there were free film screenings with free popcorn, pre-show activities, and giveaways. We saw Disney’s Oceans documentary with some friends. I also made my boys go see Akeelah and the Bee because I wanted to see it. We only did 2 movies, but it is nice to have this option not only during their summer festival but different family films throughout the year. We also just did everyday normal things like go to the library (after which they would read for hours, and I had to peel them off the couch which is both annoying and glorious), swim in the pool, and have yelling competitions (well, not intentionally but that’s sometimes how it goes with brothers and their mom spending 24/7 together).
We also are trying to make the most of our last days with friends who will sadly be leaving the area soon. The Shins arrived for their temporary year placement around the same time we were new to Tucson. Mike and Jae went to college together and hadn’t seen each other since those days until they randomly connected in the parking lot at work. We have been blessed by their friendship and all agree with Ethan who told me recently, “I wish they would just move to Tucson permanently.”Ethan, are you still reading? You, my son, have had a great summer. Now you will be starting MIDDLE SCHOOL in a few short days. EEK! Your reward for reading all these words to the end is me telling you how proud I am of you, your impeccable memory and appreciation of memories, your love for reading and appreciation of the magic of books, and that you are so serious about your school work that you did not want me to plan any play times with your friends because you need to be sure you get all your home work done. (I am still going to make you play with your friends.) You will no doubt do great in middle school so don’t be nervous. Just be yourself. (Well, not the self that likes to push your brother’s buttons, is particular about your stuff in your room, and does not like to leave the house even for fun things sometimes.) Be all the (other) traits you so perfectly hold that make us smile (and grimace but mostly smile) and beam with pride. You are incredibly precious, just like these summer memories.