The Pause Button

untitledAugust 13, 2016

These are the things I loved most about the summers of my youth.

A clear-cut delineation between time zones. School ended and vacation began, as if we hit a pause button on our obligations. Only on Labor Day weekend, when we drove to the outlets in Pennsylvania for marathon wardrobe shopping, did I begin thinking about school again at all. I was a good student and liked learning anything that wasn’t math or science, but I treasured a demand-free summer like everyone else.

Endless hours to read. I devoured stacks of books in the long hours of daylight. It was over the summer that I transitioned from the children’s room to the young adult section, and from there forayed into the shelves with grown-up fiction. Neither the librarians nor my parents seemed to notice the titles under my arm, giving me implicit license to read whatever serendipity brought my way.

Independence. On days I didn’t go to camp, I came and went without checking in too often with anyone. Sometimes, my best friend and I walked into town, where we explored the knickknacks at the pharmacy and bought gifts for our mothers’ July birthdays. Mostly, though, we would ride our bicycles along the bike path, stopping to gather wildflowers that were probably weeds, and sharing secrets. I had a watch, but I don’t remember looking at it often.

Calories didn’t count. Nor did cholesterol. Early on a summer evening, my family occasionally drove to an ice cream barn a good half hour, maybe 40 minutes away. We didn’t speak much in the car. But the scenery was rustic and beautiful, and I was happy to stare out the window in silence, alone with my thoughts. The ice cream scoops were so large I rarely finished my cone. The only other problem was deciding which flavor to choose.

Nostalgia for that pause button of my childhood has hit me, as it does every August in the final weeks of the season. And yet, my current pace is more or less business as usual, with breaks I can count on one hand.

Alas, grownup summers are not the carefree ones of our youth. Adulthood is a big blurring of time lines, making it harder to disconnect entirely from work and responsibilities, even when we have the opportunity to do so. Rather than idling, many of us are planning for next steps – buying school supplies and sending in reservations for Rosh Hashana seats at shul. And our worries rarely melt with a scoop of pistachio ice cream in the setting sun.

Tonight that bothered me. A lot. So I paused. I offered the kids ice cream for dinner and made sloe gin fizzes for me and my husband. We stood outside watching the fireflies and counting the stars and our blessings, feeling like we’d gone back in time. I let the sultry air fill my lungs as new dreams poured into my head. Here’s to them being enough to carry me through into autumn.