By Debbie Baldwin
Anyone with children older than 10 has slowly come to terms with the fact that there is no summer. OK, that was an exaggeration. Of course, there’s a summer. According to the calendar, summer lasts about three months. Mentally, it lasts six weeks. Emotionally, summer is 16 reasonably pleasant days sandwiched in-between the end of school wrap-up and the back-to-school check-up.
That being said, it is, in fact, summer—literally, mentally and emotionally. This is the window. The weather is gorgeous, bike tires are pumped, racquets are strung, sneakers are laced. I stand at my kitchen door like one of those fans on the sidelines at a marathon, holding a cup of water for the runners: Come on, you can do it—go! I am met by three glazed-over teens who simultaneously mumble:
We’re out of juice.
There’s nothing to do.
I can’t find my charger.
It’s as if the woodwind section of a very bad orchestra is warming up in my living room. I want to yell with abandon, but part of me knows it’s uncalled for and another part is worried Cranky is secretly recording me and posting the video for her friends. Instead, I calmly encourage Whiny to take the dog for a walk, and Punch to call a friend. The boys protest with their laundry list of canned excuses, returning to the virtual world before I abandon the discussion. Meanwhile, Cranky documents her reactions with a series of adorable selfies.
I have to get them out of the house. I have to. I have a pretty decent book collecting dust, the full season of 24 recorded—that and I’m going to go absolutely bat-guano crazy if I don’t get five minutes alone. Think, dammit, think. I go back to every hostage negotiation movie I have ever seen: Get them talking. Hey guys, what’s up today? Nothing. The games continue their high-pitched humming, Cranky snaps another photo. I went to the store. I got food. That does it. Whiny and Punch beeline to the kitchen—and one room closer to the door—Cranky wanders in behind, apparently documenting the journey as if it’s a trail hike.
Once they’ve emptied the pantry, like a swarm of locusts descending on a fig tree, we are at a crossroads. I’ve gotten them this far. Three more steps and they’re in the yard. They make a move to return. I block the door with my body—my sanity is on the line. Cranky grabs her keys and gestures for the boys to follow. She mentions something about ice cream or swimming or knocking off a convenience store—who the hell cares? They are leaving, they are going out in the sunshine, with the other three-dimensional people. I look around at the crumpled potato-chip bags, empty milk jugs, damp towels and odd array of flip-flops that litter the room and wonder idly, When will summer be over?