I just returned to San Francisco after spending the summer with my mother and my daughter. Three generations of Rankin women spent five weeks at my mother’s Ohio lake house – swimming, Slip ‘n’ Sliding, coloring, reading, kayaking, tubing, eating watermelon off our chins, boating, making pottery, square-dancing, cruising around in golf carts, sculpting sandstone, licking ice cream, hiking, trolling through Amish country, riding rollercoasters, singing, sliding down flumes, and doing lots and lots of hugging.
The summer vacation was a gift from my mother, who is a master at magical memories. It was a gift not just for me, my daughter, my niece, and my nephews, but also for my husband, who got a welcome reprieve from childcare and housekeeping duties so he could go on a writing retreat and finish his novel (which he did! WOOT!)
For those who couldn’t be with us, here are some highlights from the summer.
The fairy village. Siena is obsessed with fairies and was very sad to leave her fairy house in California. You can imagine her surprise when Mom sent her hunting for anything “unusual” and Siena discovered a whole fairy village that magically appeared in my mother’s backyard. Fairies appeared there. Things got rearranged. It was all very mysterious.
Fireflies. Siena has never seen them. She took them as proof that fairies are real.
Yoga in a waterfall. Eagle pose in summer heat while chilly streams of water cool you. Need I say more?
Kayaking on the lake. Most nights, just as the sun was setting, and after the speed boat wakes died down, I took the kayak out on mom’s lake. By the time I came home, the bats were swooping all around me.
The sound of “WHEEEE!!!” Never in such a short period of time have I heard my daughter yell “WHEEEE!” so many times. While coasting down a hill on her bicycle. While cruising down a kiddie rollercoaster. While jetting down a waterslide. While skidding across the Slip ‘n’ Slide. While jumping off the end of the dock into the lake. While the ski boat dragged her on a tube. While getting pulled by a horse in an Amish buggy. While playing in a fountain. While floating down a river on an inner tube. While riding down a hill in the electric wheelchair that once belonged to my father (she called it “the magic cart.”)
Writing my book. While Siena attended “Nana Camp,” I spent many quiet, uninterrupted afternoons lost in the joy of writing my next book The Prescription: 5 Spiritual Steps To Healing Yourself From Illness, Trauma, or Loss while gazing at the lake and marveling at the research I was uncovering. Did I mention I LOVE to write?
Throwing pottery. Nothing like getting your hands muddy while learning how to find your center.
The puppy that broke my heart. Siena and I fell in love with a little Yorkie. I spent two hours considering whether we could possibly bring the pup into our family – and got my hubby’s permission to do so. When we went back to get her, she was gone. Someone else took her home. I cried.
Tomatoes for breakfast. I started almost every morning eating a juicy, plump, ripe red whole tomato, chopped up and mixed with rosemary salt and basil olive oil. Can you say YUM?
Do-si-do-ing with my mother. While live country-western music played and a gentleman in a neck scarf called out the steps, Mom, Siena, my nephew Zay, my niece Malen, and my nephew Nick all promenaded like nobody’s business. But I think Mom and I had more fun than anybody else.
A rabbit-less magician. We saw James Galea wow the audience in his “I Hate Rabbits” untraditional magic show. Siena kept saying, “Mom, will you tap me on the shoulder when the magic happens.” Me, I just couldn’t stop staring at the hot magician. (Now that’s a sentence I’d venture to guess you don’t read every day.)
Blackberry-picking. Most evenings, I took a hike around the lake, and lo-and-behold, there were wild blackberries on my route. Just yum.
Canoodling in the lake. Siena floated in her life vest. I floated on two noodles. Mom just flipped over and floated on her back. We were all very floaty.
Mint chocolate chip Whit’s Frozen Custard. Can you tell we ate our way through summer?
Sculpting soapstone. I made a sculpture of my Inner Pilot Light and gave it to my Mom for her birthday. Siena wept in despair because she wanted
to keep it for herself.
The Luau. Mom threw a luau in our honor, complete with tiki torches, leis, and Copacabana on the Ipod player. Someone brought Riunite to a crowd of tee-totalers. It was a PAR-TEE!
Lake Erie. We spent a week at Lakeside, the Chautauqua on Lake Erie. This little community was so Mayberry I honestly wondered whether I was the unwitting star of some reality show. Like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. “Let’s put Lissa Rankin in this Methodist retreat center where everybody waves from the front porch and prays on Sundays and the kids bike in the streets and just see what happens.” It would have been a boring reality TV show though. I loved it. And there was zero drama aside from the owl that ate the skunk. (But that’s another story for another post).
Millenium Force. Voted the best steel rollercoaster in the world, you can virtually ride it here or you can go to Cedar Point up on Lake Erie and ride it for yourself. (FYI- Maverick also ROCKS. You can virtually ride it here.)
Snuggles. There were lots of snuggles. Lots and lots of snuggles. Some tears. Loads of laughter. Bushels of love.
My Summer of Love
This is how I grew up. Summers like this were ordinary for me. Only after I became an adult did I realize the gift my parents had given me, providing me with boatloads of these kinds of experiences every single summer.
It’s an act of love, to consciously create memories, to prioritize family, to let kids (and grown-ups) be kids, to live for the moment, rather than waiting for your life to happen. I never had any doubt my mother loved me or my daughter, but now, I’m doubly certain. Thank you Mommy. I cherished our time together. Bless you for being the kind of mom every person on earth deserves to have.
Tricia’s Summer of Love
My friend Tricia Barrett had a summer of love of her own. After finding out her mother had metastatic cancer, Tricia sublet her apartment, gave up her business, missed her graduation from intuitive medical school, dropped everything, and flew to Boston to be with her mother, who died on August 6, but not until after Tricia had a chance to express every last word of love, heal any unhealed wounds, kiss her goodbye, bond with her family, and shepherd her mother into the next life with grace, peace, respect, honor, and unconditional love.
If that’s not a summer of love, I don’t know what is.
Donna Barrett, may you rest in peace, my love. And Tricia, bless you sister. I’m proud of you. You are an exceptional daughter, and a remarkable woman. I love you.
Your Summer of Love
This summer was a gift my mother gave to me and to her grandkids. It was a gift I gave to my daughter. It was a gift my husband received graciously. It was a gift Tricia gave to her mother, and a gift her mother gave to her.
Such gifts just get recycled, out into the world. And so here. I pass on the gift to you.
A summer of love. A summer of memories. A summer of a life well lived. A reminder that, in the end, love is all that really matters anyway.
What about you? How was your summer? Did you build new memories? If not, what can you do to change that before Labor Day? Seize the day, my love. Let this be your summer of love too. Tell us your stories.
Basking in warm summer glow,