Timeless summer memories

The beginning of summer has a way of stirring up my heart and memories that make me grateful for this gift called Life. As soon as June 21 happened, my mind clamored in flashbacks of summer solstices. 

I have amazing memories of summers spent borrowing library books and reading whatever I wanted to read; camping in Virginia; spending a couple of weeks in Connecticut with my cousins; gallivanting around Jersey City and Bayonne with friends before we were off to college; working entire summers in college, not going home and passing on family vacations because I wanted to assert my independence; taking $50 cab rides home from spending late nights in the city because I was in my twenties, working and living on my own; waiting for my Dad to die; and introducing my daughter to the vast, wild and mysterious ocean's edge. 

I grew up an only child, so the library was my sanctuary. I didn't need any company other than a few good books to read and get me through the week. I loved that I had my very own sky blue library card, the back of which required my signature. I could spend entire afternoons completely immersed in an environment that was unlike my day-to-day in Jersey City. I am thankful to my mom who never minded that I wanted to frequent the library and borrow a pile of books every week. 

Our family camping trips at Cherrystone Campground in Cape Charles, Virginia were fun filled. We brought everything you could possibly fit in a caravan and included the comforts of home. My cousins and I could participate in any of the campground activities, and we roamed around as we liked on hiking/bike trails, to the paddle boats, or to the on-site arcade. Our parents delighted in the local crabbing and fishing and even had the nerve to go around asking other campers for their fish heads, a Filipino delicacy, to make a tasty traditional soup. 

My summer weeks in Connecticut were somewhat of a worry-less break for my parents and for me, a much needed getaway from my parents (whose complete focus was always on me) and the city. We'd camp out in the backyard and sing around bonfires. We had our share of roasted-on-a-stick hot dogs and marshmallows too. And the fireflies! We'd tried to catch a few in a jar, so we could watch them light up. (Sadly, I don't see many fireflies anymore.) 

Having spent 13 years in the same school with the same girls, the summer before college meant hanging onto those friendships amidst the fear, anxiety and excitement of moving on with our lives. After the high school graduation celebrations, there were the finally- turning-18 surprise parties, hanging out til 2am turned into sleepovers, and ensuring that our ties remained strong via weekly baking/chatting sessions of cupcakes, rice krispie treats and wine coolers. 

Once I was in college, I passed on shore summer vacations with my family because I wanted to stay in my college town of New Brunswick and prove that I could work full-time and live on my own, and I was hell bent on making sure I didn't have to go back to my parents' house. As I reflect on that choice I made as a young adult, I never realized then that I'd literally have the rest of my life to work. 

When I was in the throes of my career as a twenty-something in New York City, I made the most of working hard and playing hard. Advising students by day, schmoozing with University colleagues by night, it was then I upped my alcohol tolerance. Not to mention the late night event organizing and blowing off steam at karaoke bars into the wee hours of the morning. It was nothing to blow $50 (including tip) on a 20-minute cab ride from lower Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel back home to downtown Jersey City. I knew I'd be home before my colleagues who lived in Brooklyn or Queens. Once college graduation festivities ended, we didn't have summers off, but we could make the most of working in the city following the end of the spring semester. 

The summer season can also be bittersweet as it was when I waited for my Dad to die from cancer. While I'd made the decision to spend as much time as possible with him, waiting for my father to die with dignity and on his own terms at home made for a most undesirable and hallowed memory. With the support of my workplace at the time, the Universe granted me the time to sit with my Dad and listen to his wisdom. His most important words still guide me, "Live a simple life." When anyone or any situation tests my patience, I remember his insight. 

Four summers after my Dad died (including six years of trying on and off and in the middle of an adoption process), the Universe gifted us with our miracle. And after a tumultuous adoption journey, we have learned to accept that the failed adoption was not meant to be at that time, but our birth daughter was, and that's how the Universe works. Almost three years young, our little lady brings us anxiety, tests our patience, leaves us exhausted by day's end, and ignites our hearts so. I fancy the summertime memory of our babymoon at a lovely B&B down the shore. The third trimester was not an easy one as I was on bed rest due to a number of complications associated with 'advanced maternal age.' Born a preemie at 35 weeks, N.'s birthday falls the day before mine. (Hurray for summer birthdays!) With her dad being an avid fisherman and her mama a delighter in most that is sun, sand, and water, it's no surprise that N. is a water baby. As soon as we brought her home, we introduced her to the bay that soothes us in our day-to-day trials. It's our love of the shoreline that inspired us to name her - Nayla Bay. 

While it can be a cruel, cruel summer leaving us to feel like we're on our own, we can also take comfort in summertime and the livin' [can be] easy . . . May you enjoy summer's bliss, burst into summersong, and wish upon a firefly.