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Maxfield Parrish: Study for Janion's Maple (Under Summer Skies) (circa 1956)
"Part of what we visited no longer existed but we could still see it and share it …"

By the second week of July, it's finally sinking in that it's summer again. Another Summer. AnOtherSummer this time. I was impressed into service as daycare for The GrandOther this week, a role I had been secretly hoping I'd be drafted into. I'm not the greatest grandfather ever devised, but I'm also not the worst. At first, I thought of myself as more of an uncle than a gramps, but that was fifteen years and more ago when TheGrandOtter spent summers with The Muse and I. The Otter's grown and gone now and only her little sister stands between her dad and step-mom becoming empty nesters themselves, like The Muse and I once were when we pressed for annual summer GrandOtter visits. Now it's TheGrandOther's turn to receive the treatment.

The treatment. I speak of it as if it is a thing when its' not.
It's also not a person or a place, either. It might be more of a relative proximity, a positioning. TheOther had been stopping by most days after school for a scant half hour or so before her dad would come and sweep her back home. Summertime's different. Dad's been hired back at the plant and he's working a full ten hour shift. Mom's finally back to her actual office, gone all day except for lunch at home. The daughter, TheGrandOther, would just as soon sleep in until early afternoon, eat breakfast for lunch, and Tic-Toc away the afternoon, but that won't work. She needs some small supervision. My schedule's the emptiest, so I'm the one. I am not, The Other agrees, baby sitting, for this granddaughter grew up faster than most and never looked back. She spent more than a year living in a Ronald McDonald House in Seattle when her older brother received treatment for cancer. She came back reporting that she had made many friends there, but most had died though many still visited her at night.

TheOther affects a great distain, an almost snobby indifference to almost anyone and anything. She defaults to no on most subjects. She claims disinterest. She came to me on day two of our ordeal complaining that she was bored.

"Great!", I replied.

"Why great?," she asked.

I confided that the true purpose of summer school vacation was to provide school kids enough boredom so that they might develop a range of coping strategies for dealing with it. All through the school year, teachers and other well-meaning grownups pepper kids with assignments and (gulp) expectations so that it's next to impossible to ever experience authentic boredom, the kind that can only come from truly having nothing to do and from being genuinely stumped about what to do next. Boredom seems a common enough state, but true boredom requires more than just a boring subject, but a void of ideas, a genuine vacuum, the kind easily experienced when it's too hot to go outside and you've finished drawing.

I asked TheOther what strategies she already possessed for dealing with boredom, how she usually coped with it. "Well, I thought I would just bother you until you came up with something." I smiled warmly at the prospect. I offered her an opportunity to engage in some real painting. Had she ever painted a wall or something? She started explaining how she had, but that her parents had been concerned that she might leave stripes, so she hadn't. I've got a lot of painting to do and I could outfit her with an old shirt as a smock and we could be in business. She declined and went off to invent some other cure for her boredom, but I'd done my part. The only thing worse than summertime boredom might be an actual assignment of work which might hold someone accountable for something. That's coming.

She feigns distain for most of my suggestions, so I don't always ask. I'm old enough that I can usually insist and get my way out of deference or something. We went to the park together and just walked and talked, sharing stories. I believe it's true that anybody who lives inhabits a world unique to them. The park I visited was very different from the one TheOther entered with me. She showed me where she'd once snapped a photo of a full moon rising through trees and where she'd left rocks to memorialize her brother after he'd died. We looked for turtles, which once lived in the pond in great proliferation until someone remodeled it. Part of what we visited no longer existed but we could still see it and share it and simply understand our other worlds. It's AnOtherSummer, after all.


This Friday comes to bookend a disrupted week. The July 4th holiday was officially observed on July 5th, smearing the weekend and shortening the workweek. The Muse's son Graig was hired back after sixteen long months laid off due to The Damned Pandemic so The GrandOther's become my ward for a spell, but only for a while. Summer seems the shortest season. It induces a deeper sense of permanence, perhaps, which weakens defenses. Expectations stack on top of each other to obscure the swift passage through. One minute it's June and next we're past the 4th of July and well on our way to August. This heat seems as though it will be permanently with us, perhaps longer. Before we know it, we'll be playing to an absent audience, school will start and AnOtherSummer will be gone.

I began my writing week speaking of
Permanence. "I deal exclusively in small 'p' permanence, and it's entirely up to me to make up stories of redemption and encouragement for myself. I appreciate myself for trying, for contributing good faith efforts, though each seems destined for impermanence."

I next described one of the standard dilemmas HomeMaking entails, painting the line between wall and ceiling in
Cut. "Anything to create a lasting illusion of competence."

We stumbled upon a
MidSummerEvening which transported us into a pirate adventure, the week's most popular posting. "These are not the grown-up's stories to tell, but to witness."

I attempted to describe a world I once inhabited, reintroduced to me by nieces and a nephew much smaller and more experienced than I.
"BigNSmall together, actively introducing each other to the worlds each inhabits, that's how this world was supposed to work. (Try not to forget this.)"

I suppose that my next piece served as my political screed for the week. It was, after all, the
Fourth of July and "I baffled myself imagining how I might explain July the Fourth to anyone not native to the United States of America. I cannot quite explain it to myself."

I tried to capture what nobody ever anticipates, the primary physical effect of exposure to long, dry heat in
FatEhGue. However one pronounces it, it's surprisingly exhausting. "By evening, I'm wrung out, a sweat rag repeatedly squeezed yet incapable of absorbing even another drop."

I ended my writing week with a paean to preparedness or the prominent absence thereof in
BeingPrepared, the week's least popular story. "It might be that we're only ever approaching the best we can become once we're over-extended and recovering. BeingPrepared for another humbling might prove the most useful preparation of all."

It seems, suspended here in midsummer, as if the future might never come. Summer's short because it's sort of timeless, though I understand that timelessness stands as an impossible state if not an impossible experience. The dog walkers arrive as if following a schedule. The 6:09 flight to Seattle departs directly over the house to remind me that my morning's almost finished just as The Muse starts hers. Summer days were never lazy, just dizzying. They're tough to capture, sizzling as they pass. They induce a coma, a dream-like state, one where anyone might be late for their own awakening. They expend in expensive inches itching to accomplish something. I fall permanently behind in lieu of making progress. Thanks for following along.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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