This summer, I will buy an ice cream maker like my family had when I was a child.

I will go to the trouble and expense of purchasing rock salt, ice and all the ingredients.

And I will make homemade ice cream in the back yard, allowing the whir of the motor to mingle with the smell of lighter fluid on the grill, creating a new summer dream for my children, recalling an old one for their mother.

This summer, goose bumps and aging body thermostat be hanged, I will go swimming in the lake with my children, and stand, as long as they want, at the bottom of the slide, catching them.

This summer, I will watch at the back door for the very few seconds he requests, and wave, as my 7-year-old son swings back and forth on the tire swing. Better yet, I will walk out and join him.

This summer I will find that fine line between reinforcing a work ethic and letting my children have their vacation.

To that end, I will let my kids sleep in.

I will also teach them to wash the car. I will make a (small) chore list for them every morning. We will clean closets and the dreaded basement together on rainy afternoons.

This summer, I will drive as many kids as want, as many times as they want, to the library and to the local tennis courts. I will let them chase the ice cream truck with the quarters I keep in a jar in the cupboard. I will rip open endless Freezer-pops with my teeth and hand them out to their friends.

I will send my children to play barefoot in the heat of the day and to veg out on solid family movies, like “Free Willie” and “The Secret Garden” in the freezing cold of the basement at night.

This summer, I will let them turn on the sprinkler whenever they want and not care that they are turning the lawn into mud. Or that our new puppy is playing in the mud with them.

I will let my children erect a tent in the back yard, even though I know I will be forced to lead a mad scramble every time it rains to remove the mound of blankets, sleeping bags, pillows and stuffed animals collected inside.

This summer, abandoning Atkins for once, I will make BREADED fried chicken for a family picnic. I will remember to bring bug spray and sun-screen – and to stock the medicine cabinet with anti-itch lotion and aloe vera gel, in case I forget.

I will join in to play Frisbee and baseball in the front yard when my husband comes home from work, instead of shooing everybody out the door and succumbing to e-mail.

I will go on twilight walks with that husband, leaving the kids to catch lightning bugs in jars with holes in the lids made by the clumsy pounding of dull butter knives.

This summer, I will come to grips with the fact that there are only so many summers in the life of a family.

Catholic upbringing notwithstanding, finally believing the God I know would approve, I will occasionally agree to replace Sunday church with family walks in the woods, or pancake breakfasts and jigsaw puzzles on the back deck.

I will lie, suspended, half asleep in the porch swing after supper, and promise to hold onto every toss of the Frisbee, every turn of the tire swing, every moment of my children’s formless summer days, even though I know my promises, just like another childhood I once held as dear, will ultimately flicker and flutter and collapse into the reality of summer’s limitations, summer’s end.

Debra-Lynn Hook, a former reporter at The (Columbia, S.C.) State, is the mother of Chris, 15, Emily, 11, and Benjamin, 7, and has been writing about family life since 1988. Comments are welcome at dlbhookyahoo.com.


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