The hazy, lazy days of summer lengthen and shimmer with cicada buzz and dandelion fuzz, and in filling out the final pages of your summer writing journal, the golden afternoons become a wandering ellipses of nothing much to do.
Nothing much to do at all....
Vacations to the beach and amusement park are mostly over. The only anticipation left is The One That Shall Not Be Looked Forward To no matter how much you want to show off your new Trapper Keeper or reconnect with friends not seen since June, surprising them with a smile full of "big kid" front teeth that weren't there the last time they saw you.
Mom doesn't have anything planned for these next few weeks, and sitting on carpet remnant squares during vacation bible school or building Mentos-and-Pepsi rockets at scout camp are all distant memories of early July.
Remember early July?
You couldn't believe your good luck. Even in July, the swimming lessons of June felt like years ago and August was a yard-long calendar page that wouldn't even get posted on the fridge until after your trip to Ocean City, a two-week soccer clinic, a forever-and-a day hike over your grandmother's mountain, and hours and hours and hours at the community pool. You were convinced that with so much to do, July would stretch on endlessly, and August might not even happen until the week before Christmas.
And then it was August.
And then it was gone.
With nothing much to do today, we grabbed our water shoes and a few plastic buckets and headed over to the neighborhood park along the creek.
This time of year, the creek is wide and shallow with just enough deeper dips in the bed for a surprise plunge into cold, clear water that looks pretty clean but is probably filled with just enough upstream agricultural run-off to make necessary a motherly warning about the perils of actually swimming in and ingesting agricultural run-off. Our creek outing would be wading only.
Still, we eat a lot of organic food, so I figure even with one or two accidental plunges it's even-steven at this point.
The girls meandered up and down the creek, crossing from shore to shore and back again in search of found treasures, while I waded-in ankle deep with a toddler who wanted nothing to do with setting foot in a "wa-wa" filled with rocks and shells and weeds and fish and a giant white egret stalking through the current and occasionally flapping its big flappy wings for no good reason that I could figure out except to further freak out the small human who was now screaming wildly in the larger human's arms. The toddler was just not interested in creeks or birds or slanting rays on sparkling water or much of anything to do with this particular August afternoon the way mom was letting it happen.
And so the toddler and I dug in the playground sandbox and swung on the swing and slid on the slide while the girls strayed aimlessly through the hours until finally they trudged back up the creek bank with sweaty hair, a few more freckles, and buckets filled to the top with watery loot. They gave me a quick rundown of the inventory as we packed our things and headed for home:
a few good round flat stones
a fishing lure minus the hook
a wonderful smooth hunk of polished red and white creek glass
a crayfish skeleton.
I made a mental note to check the snail shells when we got home just to make sure that they were really vacated and wouldn't become a source of mysterious stink a few days from now.
The toddler was worn out from the sand and surf, and while I was putting him down for a nap, the girls got the okay to lounge in front of the TV for a while. We haven't had them checked recently for Nature Deficit Disorder, but from the blank looks of complete exhaustion and distinct lack of fidgety twitching, I figured they had received about the recommended daily allowance of vitamins Go, Outside, and Play.
I poured myself a tall glass of fizzy lemon soda, sat down on the front porch beneath the dappled shade of our enormous oak tree, and began picking through the shells and rocks and feathers and childhood's summer-day mementos, keeping the keepers and not finding any stinkers, and finally taking time to admire the beautiful, polished red creek glass...
That "creek glass" would be a chillum, a small glass pipe favored by Rastifarians to smoke cannabis during their religious ceremonies.
And in spite of having been cleansed by watery agricultural run-off, from the smell of the pipe, the last religious ceremony had been recent.
I put the pipe on the desk in the kitchen so I would remember to show it to my husband and then we'd both have a good chuckle about the "creek glass" and then we would...uh...dispose of the...religious paraphernalia...in an appropriate and respectful manner, and that would be that.
In the meantime, I made some phone calls, puttered around, made more calls....
My mother-in-lawarrived to pick up my oldest daughter for skating lessons, and after showing me her new purple cell phone, she assisted my daughter in scrambling to get out the door on time, and they were gone. I was left thinking about thinking about thinking about dinner, when my husband walked in the door home from work. Eager to share my humorous "creek glass" story for a few parental yuks, I turned to the kitchen desk to grab the polished red punchline...
and it wasn't there.
And after a quick search under a pile of bills and around a pile of books and under more piles of bills, the pipe still wasn't there.
And I thought and thought and thought about where it could be, did it drop off the desk, did I put it somewhere else and not remember, did I put it back in my pocket...? And then slowly but surely - like being on holiday in Paris and sorta-kinda recalling your one semester of high school French halfway through eating a Cheval Burger - it dawns on you:
Your daughter took the "creek glass" to show to her friends at skating class.
MY daughter took the "creek glass" to show to HER friends at skating class!
I scrambled for the phone and frantically called my mother-in-law's cell phone, all the while chanting a fervent prayer to whichever patron saint was ambassador to Jamaica, oh please, please, please let my mother-in-law have kept the same cell phone number or I'm going to have to outrace her brand new Volkswagen in our beat-up Golf, when Thank Bob Marley! she answered her cell and I couldn't pussyfoot around, I just blurted out that there was a good possibility that my daughter was concealing a pot pipe in her mittens and she was going to show it off to all the girls at class and then we were all going to go to jail for not having dreadlocks.
My mother-in-law promptly handed over the phone to my daughter:
"Honey? Sweetie? You remember the creek glass you found?"
"Where is it?"
"Uhm...uhmmm...on your desk?"
"Are you sure? Are you sure it's on the desk and you didn't take it to show your friends?"
(Child hearing hint of stress in parent's voice.) "I didn't take it."
"Are you sure you're sure? Because if you did take it you're not in trouble, I promise. I just need to know."
(Child now certain she's in trouble for something but not sure what.) "I didn't take it."
(Mom counting on fact that 3rd Grade Anti-Smoking Campaign of Fear is still fresh in daughter's mind. April was eons ago.) "Okay...well...okay. But listen...if you do have it, don't show it to anyone okay? That creek glass is really a kind of pipe that people use to smoke. Tobacco. Smoke tobacco. I'm not sure that all of the adults at skating would...appreciate...us showing it off to kids. Even though it is really pretty. Do you understand?"
(Child sufficiently horrified.) "Really?! Oh no! No, I don't have it! I won't show it to anyone!"
(Mother convinced.) Good. Okay. Okay. Good. Have fun at skating.
Which is all fine and good - Hooray! and Hurrah! and Phew! - but which still leaves me with the uncomfortable question:
Where is the "creek glass"?
Where oh where oh where?
I can only imagine that some cold evening in deepest, darkest February-
during a dinner party at our house with the parish priest, or perhaps with my husband's boss, or maybe with the school guidance counselor, or even with all three in attendance, of course! -
the toddler will toddle into the dining room -
his face beaming, his smile as wide as an August day -
the toddler will appear in the dining room and clutched in his adorable fingers will be a wonderful smooth hunk of polished, red creek glass.
A souvenir of summer.
Which he will ceremoniously plop on the table.
And us with no dreadlocks.
And winter suddenly stretches on forever.