As summer winds down and the kids head back to school, we fall into my favorite time of year. But the arrival of cooler temperatures and changing leaves always makes me nostalgic for my childhood, of which there are two versions. Today I’m yearning for the idealistic one. The one where my sister and I were home for the entire summer break, (which used to be closer to 3 months and not this “barely there” summer vacation our kids get!) The summer where we built popsicle stick houses and raced our Charlie’s Angels van against our Barbie corvette down the driveway. The summers that included playing with all the kids on our street until the sun went down, which is when we should make our way back home. The summers where we rode our bikes to the mall, and walked to the library. The days when I could follow my dad on his mail route, which just happened to include our street and surrounding ones, where neighbors would yell, “Hey little David!” because I was his mini me. Or the days when my mother would put on a .45 record and get her groove on to Minnie Ripperton or the Bee Gees, and I would sit and watch her, taking in the words and sounds. I couldn’t fully comprehend the meaning, but today when I hear “Back Down Memory Lane” or “How Deep is Your Love” I can close my eyes and transport to my easy childhood. Now, when I reread my childhood diaries, they are filled with angst about being in love with just about everybody, being overweight, overdeveloped and bullied. But nostalgia is funny in the way that when you replay the events of your past, it can be as though there is an instagram filter, shading the not too pleasant parts and illuminating the wonderfulness of the moment. Middle class life in suburbia. Ahh, good times, good times. If only I could have cherished it more.
I’m sure one day, years from now I will look back on this time and remember how great it is. Raising my beautiful kids, finding my voice, building a community. But more often than not, I find myself saying, “I don’t want to adult today!” I long for those simple times when my meals were cooked for me, my clothes were washed for me and I was given allowance on my Dad’s payday. I possessed a talent that granted me confidence despite the bullying. I was known as “the girl who could sing.” I didn’t have to do anything but be me.
Now ‘being me’ means worrying all the time about everything! How can I stretch this money until next payday? (Nevermind, I’m buying shoes!) How do I get the kids to learn responsibility and do chores (unlike myself growing up)? How do I give my kids all of me without losing myself? How do I stay connected to my husband when we’re both so busy trying to make a better life that we hardly see each other? How do I comfort friends and loved ones through illnesses and unexpected losses that usually come around this age? How do I keep us safe in a world where black people can’t even be happy without getting in trouble, let alone drive, walk down the street or enjoy a friend’s pool party? It’s no wonder I sometimes need to bury myself in nostalgia-it’s self preservation!
Adulting is hard. But there is something redeeming about being grown and that is the gift of wisdom and perspective. I know, having lived almost 42 years that things always get better, that you can’t live in the past and that as an adult, you can choose to keep the parts of your life that you like and disregard the parts that you don’t. I am responsible for creating the life I want. And that is both hard and simple.