I don’t mourn summers. I don’t. Maybe when I was a kid, but not since then have I ever felt the sweet pangs of watching one summer fade into another Fall, not until now. Every day the sun fades into the water earlier than it did yesterday, much earlier than it did last week, I feel an almost anguish over the loss of this first summer with Zed. It’s not our first summer together. We spent a portion of her first year in Waikiki, and then another chunk of that second year in Brooklyn, but this is the first summer, in so many ways, of just us. It slips from her own tiny lips at times, “you and me Daddy. It’s just you and me,” and I love it more than summer itself. This summer, out of all my summers, I’ll miss.
It started fairly inauspiciously and ended the same way, but in between…oh, in between there was soft and easy magic, not the abrupt and memory stamping kind, but rather the whispy, gentle breezy kind…the kind that plants the seeds of memories in your head and heart and lets them grow slowly, and by September, or perhaps even October, the smells and smiles have erupted into daydreams and full blown laughter. You’re reminded how important daydreams and laughter are, and how sunshine waters both.
It was Camp Zed for eight incredible weeks, “just you and me”, just like she said. I don’t think I’ve ever donated an entire summer to the pursuit of someone else’s happiness, and the memories will last far longer than the tan lines. This was the first summer of Camp Zed, a busy romp through this first summer of just us, just Daddy and daughter. It was filled with beaches and little girl squeals and little red wagons with homemade pirate flags. It was every day blue skies, swimming pools, and not a single sunburn, not one. It was eating lunch out, which almost always meant at the grocery store, and it was sandy bikinis and showers with Dad. He was already too conscious of how big his daughter was growing and made note that he couldn’t bring himself to wash the sand out of his own shorts at the same time. She was already so big and asking so many questions about her parents nakedness. How had she gotten so big? She was just a wobbly toddler stumbling up Court Street in Brooklyn just yesterday, and wasn’t she just a wide eyed little girl cooing her way down Kuhio towards the beach in Waikiki just a week ago? We were so proud that she knew that she needed to take the F train home to Carroll Gardens, and how the salt water and waves didn’t bother her a bit, now we’re astonished by what she says, and the things that come out of her head. She’s getting articulate where once she was just adorable. Now she’s both and nearly three years have slipped by.
For the past two months it’s been little more than a Daddy-Daughter summer camp filled with the kind of sweet, fleeting summer fun that most Dad’s don’t get. With only an scarce number of years to cultivate these summers with her, each day was a reminder that Waikiki and Brooklyn are a long way off, that each sneaking summer week comes and goes without event the faintest concern for my desperation to hang onto them. In a flash as fast and fleeting as the sun splashing into the watery horizon, seven or eight summers will disappear into the darkness of brand new days beginning somewhere else and I’ll have no more summers with her…not exclusively at least…not so gloriously selfish as these. I’ve never pained the passing of summer until now, and it aches more than most of the things that I’ve lost in my life. One quick year down, and then how many more to go? Not enough. She’s getting big. She’ll turn three in January, and six short weeks before that I’ll have turned the dial on forty, but it isn’t the winter birthdays that will mark our time together on this earth, it will be these summers.
I had often said that losing our summer vacations was what aged us so quickly from adolescence into adulthood. It was losing what reminded us each year of the value of our youth that left us forgetful of the recipe for hanging onto it. It’s equal parts forgetfulness and emotional crescendo, and it’s sun kissed and fleeting. It’s knowing that September will come and take it all away and so the clock ticks, but much differently than it does at your desk, or on your commute. The clocks count years in those crowded places, but the wide open space of summer slips by in mere months. It demands that you pay attention. I have, and this one is nearly gone and I’d give a year of my life to have it back, to have each of the last three back, but they’re gone, and so it’s my chore to remember them, and to set each one on a shelf with an empty space right next to it. With luck and warm clothes next summer will come soon enough, and she’ll be one year older but still my little girl, and Camp Zed will still fly it’s flag at the beach, and we’ll still eat lunch out and sleep in and go to the pool. “Just you and me,” she’ll say, until one day she doesn’t…and in that one day I’ll grow old and surely cry the tears that sixteen summers stole away.