I’ve spent a huge chunk of nearly every summer in my life up at Bear Lake. It is heaven to me. Through the years the experience has shifted and morphed, changing shape to fit my life. And every year it fills me in a new way.
There are things that are constant as far back as I can remember. The thin dry air that smells of sage and juniper and the occasional skunk. The clear cold water quenching scorched skin. The hot sad on calloused summer feet. The vivid sunsets. The mosquitoes. Waterskiing. The tap water that tastes of clear minerals. The ease of family being close.
Then there are the things that shift. The number of people crowded into various different spaces, the ratio of adults to children, the ages of my kids and all the nieces and nephews (it seems like almost yesterday that Bear Lake was filled with toddlers, now we’re edging into teens, Max has a deep voice and Elle wears makeup). My place in life and motherhood. The lake level, it has been low for years and years giving us miles of sandy beach, and now it’s up high. Hazel can slide down the same hot metal slide of my childhood right into the lake.
I love the juxtaposition of all of it. The old meshing and melding with the new. Each year I’m trying on new experiences in a safe and familiar environment.
This year Bear Lake has been awesome. I’m two weeks into it and have about two left to go. Jeff was with us for the first week and a half, during the official Eyrealm reunion. That week was packed with people. Everywhere. 39 to be exact. We all loved it. The newness of it all was thrilling for my kids (well, everyone but Emmeline, more about that later). One day I asked Hazel if she was having a good time and she responded, “Yes! Such a good time I can hardly believe it!” Both she and Charlie were so psyched to be with their cousins that there would be whole days where I seriously didn’t see them. And Jeff was around to help manage Emmeline’s moods and Peter’s naps. It was perfect.
Now the newness and charm of it all has worn off a bit, Jeff is long gone, back to his summer bachelorhood in Boston and things have gotten a little trickier. I realize it is totally ridiculous to gripe one tiny bit about life here in paradise, but it does have it’s challenges. Challenges that I’d gladly take along with all the perks, but it has taken some serious strategizing to make it work for everyone.
Having whole days stretched before us with nothing structured was so welcome at first, but now we’re all craving a bit more back bone to our time. Doing nothing but playing and sitting and talking was heaven for the first little bit (and something I look forward to all year long), but now it’s making me antsy.
The basic eb and flo of days here is so slow with the absence of all the demands of normal life, yet time goes by so fast that it’s hard to keep track of naps and meals and bedtime. We’re usually down at the beach until 7pm or so which makes dinner late and bedtime later. And, despite the late bedtime the kids all wake up with excitement to play all welled up inside and it almost always trumps the exhaustion they’ve got to be feeling. They’re up and playing and I’m up and feeding and running and cleaning and before we know it it’s lunch time, time to wake peter up or put him down, time to get 5 bodies all buttered up with SPF out to the beach, time to get pictures downloaded or blogged, time to start prepping for a meal you’re in charge of (a huge job when you’re cooking for nearly 40!) and then there’s another mess to clean up.
And then there’s the constant tug-o-war that goes on. The pull of the ambitious stack of books I’ve brought to read and the tug of all the interesting adult conversations constantly springing up. And the yank on the other end of all my children’s needs. I always expect that child care part to be easier because the kids are so well entertained with cousins and there are always so many adults so willing to help out, but when it comes down to it, I’m the only one who can feed Peter, sooth Emmeline, help Hazel navigate relationship woes, calm Charlie. I’m still the mom and the only parent my kids have around.
Then, there’s the powerful desire to soak up my kids and live up to all the expectations I have of how much I’m going to read with them and help them with all their summer goals. But they’re also tugged in every direction by cousins and aunts and uncles all doing such appealing things. We’re all having a hard time focusing. I’ve been on Hazel for not focusing on what I’ve asked her to do and she keeps telling me, “Mom, you KNOW how days go up here!” Yes, I do know how days go up here. They’re tricky. They’re unfocused which, after a while can start to feel pretty frustrating.
But, they’re also wonderful. Wonder full. Full of moments waiting to be grasped and enjoyed.
I guess it’s just hard to learn how to just be. There is an art to changing pace, to spending days differently. I’m worried that if I don’t master this art all this unique time will be wasted in frustration. It’s ok if things are unfocused. It’s ok if I’m not productive. I need to redefine success here, adjust expectations. I need to learn to just be. Be present. Maybe if I learn it here it will spill into my everyday life at home.
So, for now I’m going to carve out an hour in the morning just to be with my kids. To read and work with them, to reconnect and help us all feel a little more centered, gathered. And at night as I put them down I’m going to resist the urge to plow through it all and get back to all that good adult conversation and games and cookies and instead enjoy the little people that they are.
And beyond that I’m going to try to cultivate the ability to just be. To be present, to enjoy things as they come. I’m going to throw out the rest of my expectations. Stop trying to make this experience fit into what I dream it will be all winter long. I’m going to just do my darndest to learn the lessons presented here to me, as they come.
(and I’m going to hope that next year I’ll read through this post before heading off to Bear Lake so that I can get comfortable just being a little sooner)