This is our second summer in this home, and for most of it, we’ve been running hard. In June, friends came and sat around our fire. The music blared, the drinks flowed, and children came to jump on the trampoline.
But after July 4th, the backyard stood silent. Sure, we ate dinner out there as often as we could, but we did not recline in the steady wood chairs later in the night to watch the flames lick against thick chunks of wood and become enveloped by the heady scent of campfire smoke.
I’m not sure, exactly, what we were doing that precluded us from the campfire. But this Saturday night, we made one. The kids jumped in the night-dark, and we roasted a few marshmallows over open flame.
Mostly, though, we sat and reflected.
It is so mesmerizing to watch the flames dance high and arch into the night.
I tilted my head back to gaze at the sky, surprised to find so many stars visible from this close to the big city. The highway traffic nearby wasn’t too loud, really. And the kids’ enthusiasm, their sheer joy, was enough music for me, although I did put Van Morrison on the Sonos.
This is one of the secrets to a good life.
Earlier in the day, after we went as a family of six to synagogue services, where my eldest son led the second half of the prayers, after we’d gathered around the dining room table to eat a coordinated Sabbath lunch, after we’d walked six blocks to the neighborhood pool and my husband and I had fallen asleep on lounge chairs under the canopy while the children frolicked in the pool, after all that, I thought about continuing to go.
I considered taking the girls to the outlet mall to shop for clothes for my daughter’s bat mitzvah. I figured we could squeeze it in to a long summer Saturday and cross off one more thing on our long list.
But no. I stopped myself. The drive to go and do and accomplish is great, but this maniacal spinning of the daily wheel is something that could rightly kill us, too.
Instead, I knew what we needed as a family was time at home.
Time in the open air of night falling. Time around the campfire to talk or to listen to the crackle of the fire as it blazes. Time together as night becomes deeper, and the yawns are more frequent, and we know soon we will settle into the beds in close proximity to one another and have a restful night.
We have two weeks left of summer, unbelievably, since school starts so late this year, and I am making the most of it. I have found this year, that I can contain my work into nimble little groupings of hours, leaving wide open spaces to play with my kids.
This weekend was the first Shabbat we’d had as a family in six weeks, the first time we gathered around the family table to recite prayers of gratitude and love. The first time I made challah bread since summer’s beginning.
In my religion, we mark these moments to make life meaningful. I find that when I’m constantly running and doing, when I’m living a busy life, I forget to notice. And in a way, when that happens, we are so far gone.
Yesterday, my husband left for work in Montana and so it’s just me and the kids and the mounds of laundry and the open slate of a week full of days to do with what pleases us. Today, a stroll through Greenfield Village after several hours of morning work. Tomorrow, a hike through Cranbrook’s glorious grounds.
Last night, I made the leftover brisket into beef barley soup at my little one’s request. I baked chicken into a pot pie with cornmeal crust. I did all the laundry and then dragged down even more to the laundry room, ready for the awakening today.
And the best thing is that these kids that I love so very much huddle close, cuddling up to me in a bed half-empty until later this week, to get any chance of togetherness we can find.
The secret to a good life is loving the moments, even when they’re not filled with Important Things. Especially then.