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Ineffably, then-summer wanes right before my eyes. The last full week of July upon us and I’m left feeling that sense of…what’s next? Another school year about to start and in another couple of weeks, I’ll begin to set up lessons, put together a few Powerpoint or Prezi slide shows and build up the calendars for my 23rd year of teaching. This summer has been filled with a kind of emotional riptide, some feelings being swept away as, for example, Conni had to leave and go home-and others rushing right back in, when Shannon had an extraordinary experience at a camp program run by the Exotic Animal and Training Management school at Moorpark College.
Both were powerful moments for all of us. We’ve been able to keep in contact with Conni through free-texting and Skype and those are both blessings in their own way-but it’s not the same. So, we plan for a trip to Europe next summer and begin saving to see how quickly we can manage to do it.
Shannon’s week-long camp experience was a revelation, too. She’s done all kinds of camp programs in summer, some more successful than others. But she’s young and so what she wanted, how she expressed herself, wasn’t quite clear yet and though she is still a young person, her voice came through with clarity and refinement this past week. Her passion is animals, all kinds, not just the horses she dreams about nightly and rides weekly thanks to the kindness of our friends who own a couple of them. The camp was a pure expression of learning about critters of all kinds.
When she’s at school, I’ll ask how her day was and the answers are usually no longer than a short sentence. I have to pry to get anything to come out, unless it’s dramatic, in which case, she’ll begin her sentences with, “I have to tell you something.” But when we picked her up last Monday, her first day of camp, she ran to Sue and said, “can I stay all day until afternoon?” We originally signed her up to go from morning until noon. Her first morning let her know that wasn’t going to be nearly enough time to spend with the animals and she wanted more. There was room, said the counselors, so, we let her stay all day starting Tuesday.
Then the conversations went on as long as the 20 minute car-ride. “How was your day?” became an exercise in regurgitating all she’d learned from what Hyenas in captivity eat to why monkeys make the sounds they do. She would talk incessantly about everything she’d learned. When Friday came and she was to give a presentation on her animal, an opossum named Virginia, she looked at the audience, not her note cards, and talked about North America’s only marsupial, its nocturnal habits, its omnivorous appetite, its ability to “play possum” and its prehensile tail.
The mornings were clear and bright, a light breeze moving down through the college and Sue and I would go for walks around the campus after we dropped her off, watching the rabbits on the lawn and the hawks soaring above, wondering which was going to move faster. We’d go home and go about our day, I too my interviews, stories and deadlines and Sue to her consulting work–and we’d gather together for lunch, then to go get Shannon. It was a great week.
July moves at great speeds, the bridge between one school year and the next. Sure, August is mostly a summer month, but within 10 days or so of its opening, it becomes preparation time, back to school shopping, lengthening shadows and last minute efforts to revive a feeling of vacation and golden summer. Small treats become large objects to be admired-an evening run to the ice-cream shop, a last minute plan to go to the beach, a drive up the coastline, a meal out and a glass of wine as the sun sets.
Here, then, is summer 2013-in the middle of it, stopping to look around and pinpoint it. Last summer was a revelation, a homecoming trip to my childhood and sharing it with my wife, daughter and sister-in-law. This summer, it seems, is the one to build memories of our own, not to relive them. This summer is one where Shannon will come and bring her children to see where she learned to love animals, to become little-sister to an Austrian-girl who is permanently tattooed on her heart and to sit and talk with her mom and dad about her own hopes for the future.
Posted in Family