Summertime, revised

Swimming in Vermont This blog is a pretty happy place. On Mondays especially I like to write about what I like best about traveling with kids – the anticipation of a new place or the delight of remembering a cherished journey or location.

But there has been terrible and irreparable loss in my family in the past year, and never have I been more aware of it than during the past few weeks. Although I am once again in Vermont, as I have been more summers than not for the past three decades, it’s not the same for me and never will be again. The bustling restaurant kitchen my father presided over is dark and silent. I can no longer count on watching him snare the best produce at the farmer’s market or ask him his favorite uses for those giant fresh purple shallots that gleam so temptingly. He isn’t there to take Tommy kayaking or to teach classes in Indian cooking. His absence still leaves us shaking our heads, wondering when he will reappear as surely he must.

We solider on, all of us, because really, what else can you do? Summer’s myriad pleasures are here for the taking, and take we do. But it is always with the awareness that something is missing and that the pleasure is not whole or perfect as it might be.

And yet. There is still the comfort of a beautiful place that I know and love and that my children now know and love equally as well. It makes me realize that as much as exploring a new place together gives me joy, sometimes what I need is a return to the familiar. The same river. The same rocks. The same August sun dappling the water.

So today I’m dreaming of the simplest of all childhood summertime pleasures, untainted by sadness or longing.

Learning to skip a rock.

Learning to skip a rock Playing king of the mountain.

King of the mountain Jumping into cool river water.

Jumping into the Mad River
How lucky am I to have these two boys to remind me that grief can shine light on all that we love until we have to turn our blinded eyes away?

Do you have a dreamy summertime place that you go, even if it’s just your mind or heart? Please feel free to share a link to your Monday Dream below.

Reader Responses

13 fellow travelers had this to say

  1. Oh Mara, I SO get this post. I have the same relationship with Yosemite – a reminder of my dad, my youth and all things innocent. It has taken me three full summers since his death to finally find joy there again. Before that, though, there was what you have captured here – the constancy of nature and her gifts, ready for the taking no matter what might be happening back in the real world. Hang in there, friend.

  2. Your dad must have been very special. I can feel the love you have for him and the loss that his absence has created. Hugs to you.

  3. Takes me back to a place in my heart with my Mother and sibs at Th’ Beach (Myrtle Beach, SC) full of many summer nights splashing in the phospherescent ocean under a Milky-Way filled sky, breezes in the palmetto trees outside my window, all tucked in safely and watched over tenderly. Thank you, Mara!

  4. I am thinking of you, Mara, and sending big hugs your way.

  5. My family has the same connection to New Hampshire. It was very hard for my mom to go back up after my grandma passed away. Now that she has her own grandchildren though, it’s gotten a little easier. She is able to share her favorite places and memories from her childhood. We all have the hope that my grandma (and grandpa for that matter) is looking down at us and smiling as we explore and jump off the dock.

  6. What a beautiful post Mara. So glad your boys are bringing you comfort. Thinking of you.

  7. This would be very difficult, but it is great that you can focus on all of those wonderful childhood memories and the memories you are making for your boys. Sending a hug your way!

  8. I think its great that you are able to pass on your childhood memories and traditions from your father to your children. Looks like a beautiful spot too! Reminds me of where I grew up in Pennsylvania.

  9. This is really an inspiring and thoughtful post. It reminds me of my childhood on Vancouver Island.

  10. oh, mara, so sorry for your great, great loss – and it never really goes away, does it? i have so many happy memories at our family cottage, and yet miss my gramma with all my heart – and i feel here there, with us. :)

  11. I always love your posts,but this may be the most outstanding one you have written. It tugs at my heart, because losing my father was the saddest event of my life. But you love the same place that he loved, and the love goes on.

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