We had lofty plans for the summer. Okay, not lofty. But we had plans. Most of which didn't ever make it out of the planning stage. They didn't include me selling my first novel (The Art of Adapting) to a real, bonafide publisher just as the school year was winding to an end, so some things turned out a billion times better than planned. They also didn't include my daughter needing 8 stitches in her knee and weeks of healing time, and having to cancel several activities as a result. But here's what we did do this summer:
We went to the horse races, and during the intermission, they held wiener dog races, which are just as hysterical as they sound. Some of those dogs really book it on those short legs. Some run in the complete wrong direction. Some get taken out by huge, unexplained dog piles mid-track. The girls loved it. My youngest, who is on a mission to pet every dog in the universe, got several of them crossed off her list that day.
We took a couple of family trips with my mother, sister, and niece. Somehow we have all ended up single at the same time, with only daughters. We are an all-girl family. Which means lots of fun girl-time when we're all together, wherever we are. And you just can't have too much girl time. My daughters call their cousin their "sister-cousin" which shows how close they are. Just watching the three youngsters play together, at 4, 6, and 8 years old, is a joy like nothing else.
We went to the library, a local amusement park, to swimming pools, and had play dates. The usual stuff, and nothing special, except that I was with my daughters, watching them get taller and stronger and less shy about walking up to the girl behind the counter at the frozen yogurt place and asking for a cup of water all by themselves. Small milestones, but milestones just the same.
I wrote. Not as much as I would've liked, because there were these kids around so much, but when your work day consists of jotting down notes for the chapter you don't have time to write, surrounded on both ends by cuddles with your children, telling them stories, watching them do cartwheels and handstands, making homemade snow cones, and taking endless photos of them being their adorable selves, you have a pretty good life.
And that's the difference for me this summer, compared to last. Yes, the book deal helped immensely. Knowing that The Art of Adapting was going to be in print next July took a lot of pressure off me. Knowing that I had an income on the way in the tail-end of my divorce also relieved a lot of stress. Last summer I was still scraping by while chasing the dream, and felt frustrated when I wasn't making any progress. This summer I wanted time to slow down. I want this moment, the butterflies every time I wake up and remember that my novel is actually getting published, to last as long as possible. I want to relish every moment with my girls, because I can see how fast they are growing up. My eight-year-old is already so tall she barely fits in my lap. Which means I need to get those lap times in as often as I can.
My girls know that The Art of Adapting is getting published. They know that it was inspired by their Uncle Michael, who they will never meet, who had Asperger's. They had lots of questions about Asperger's, and about the other characters in the book. My six-year-old had me summarize the entire novel for her, and after three days of recounting it for her, she told me it sounded good to her. But my girls weren't clear on what getting "published" meant. They wanted to know the difference between my agent, my publisher, and my editor. They wanted to know how books are made. How they get to the bookstore. Who decides how much they cost. Who designs the covers and makes the paper and where the ink comes from. They have more questions than I have answers, but it makes this whole journey more fun and meaningful to have them to share it with, to discover the answers with them.
Originally I wanted to put them in summer camp somewhere so I could have a lot more writing time. Another summer plan that didn't work out, for financial reasons, and I'm grateful for that. My writing time will come. Time with my girls is fleeting.
The school grind kicks off next week for us. Back to lunch prep, stirring cranky girls from bed, brushing their hair while they eat breakfast, and rushing off to school always a few minutes later than we meant to get out the door. Back to homework and school projects that end up being more work for the parent than they are for the child. Back to the weekly "your child has been exposed to lice/strep throat/pink eye" notices. Back to the field trips that I always volunteer for then wonder what I was thinking. And back to writing, all day while they are at school. I have two new novel ideas battling it out in my brain, and my editor and I are going to be working on final revisions for The Art of Adapting. I have plenty of work to do, the kind of work that I love so much that it can't really be called work, and the time to do it. And I'll love every minute of it. And I'll also miss the lazy summer days, sitting on the front steps while the girls draw chalk mermaids on the driveway or put on fashion shows that morph into gymnastics performances for me. I'm ready for summer to be over, and I'm not. Which is exactly how it should feel at summer's end.