jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

One Season Following Another…

Collectively shedding our summer skin.  August 2014

Collectively shedding our summer skin.
August 2014

The marsh grass along the path to the beach is just beginning to turn orange at the edges. It’s a subtle thing, like a gray hair at your temple, but it heralds so much more. I try to think of August as the last third of summer, but really, what it is is the end of summer.

Time is passing.

Earlier this week I slipped out of bed, into my bathing suit and then out the door, only to find the air had turned surprisingly chilly for such a sunny morning. It felt too late to turn back for my t-shirt, too much of a risk of waking my children or husband. And so I shivered down to the cove with my paddleboard, quickly hopped on, and then paddled around to the inlet avoiding the pockets of cooler air in the shadows along the coast.

Walking back up to the house later, lugging my dripping board and my still chickeny cold skin, I saw our neighbor, the lobsterman, heading out to his pick-up truck.

“It’s stupid cold,” he remarked, glancing at my dripping board and the faded top of my old, blue mom-kini.

Yes, I thought. Stupid cold for sure.

“Might be time for a wetsuit,” he finished.

It is no longer June. Time is passing.

The lullabies I sang my children in the early summer, Thunder Road, Forever, Only You, Old Cape Cod, they’ve grown as weary as my salt-crusted mom-kini by now, faded and wrinkling funny where the elastic has become tired. And so the other night I added in Summer Nights from Grease.

It was one of my older sister’s first albums, and when she wasn’t around, eight-year-old me would place it onto my father’s turntable and then sing each song with dramatic flourishes and leaps from the hassock. When I finally saw the movie I was struck by how very little of the summer there was in it. There was just a beachy snippet at the beginning showing those halcyon days of Danny’s and Sandy’s first love and making out under the dock. Then, ah, it turned colder, that’s where it ends. And all this as a preface to a movie based in school?!

Even as a kid I knew. The real deal, that happened in summer.

And this week I watched my sister’s daughters run along the beach with my kids, taking turns on the paddle board and collecting beach glass with their Mom. In between moments of childish abandon, they talked about Twitter and senior yearbook photos, AP classes and driving.

To the beach...  August 2014

To the beach…
August 2014

I remember when they were little girls, like my little girls. I’m certain it was ten minutes ago. And I remember when my sister and I were their age digging clams together in Cape Cod, although she and I have more years between us and were certainly never so effortlessly lovely or composed. But we were that young only yesterday, I swear.


Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
August 2014

The other new song I started to sing as a lullaby to my children was inexplicably from Fiddler on the Roof. I sing it with a kvetching Yiddish accent in my sturdy tenor voice as we lay in the darkness together. I learned this song back when my sister was in the pit orchestra in high school.

Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?

I  don’t remember growing older, when did they?

Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the days.

And so this morning with the chill already in the air I pulled out a faded long-sleeve running shirt and threw it over my mom-kini. The fiddler song was in my head, of course, and the goldenrod clustered at the edge of the marsh grass prophesied the coming of fall, the tug of everything around me towards this hyper-paced, brilliantly colored autumn thing that shoves the faded days of summer out of the way.

I thought about how Indian Summer is a lie, a false sense that things are not headed to icicles in a few months even though we know they are. No. Indian Summer is merely the memory of what summer has been, a teasing warm caress that won’t stay. But this strangely stupid cold burst of days we were presented with, this was an inversion of Indian Summer. This was truthfulness, bright crisp and cold. We still have a handful of warm summer lovin’ days ahead, but fall is imminent. Winter is not far behind, one season following another.

When I tucked back into the cove again, a miraculous thing had happened. That glorious sunrise had heated the air, and the cliffs along the edge of the cove had craddled this warm cloud of summer just so. I took off my old running shirt and tied it around my waist and paddled through the lobster boats still at their moorings. As I finished my paddle I watched for my neighbor.

Look, it’s not quite Indian Summer, I wanted to say. No wetsuit here. The summer still has a few more good days left.

But deep inside, I feel the tug. Time is passing nonetheless.

Sunrise sunset. Sunrise sunset. Swiftly fly the years
One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.

13 comments on “One Season Following Another…

  1. Burns the Fire
    August 21, 2014

    If we didn’t have winter, we wouldn’t love summer so much. And your words wouldn’t have that lovely ache.

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Yes, yes. I don’t think I could stand to live in a season-less place. But still, one season following another…

  2. Home That We Built
    August 21, 2014

    I feel your words tenderly caressing and warmly coloring my mood for the rest of my day. Thank you for bringing a smile into a gloomy day

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      So glad you felt the warm sun. There’s summer left to be squeezed out of this August yet.

  3. donofalltrades
    August 21, 2014

    It’s like 100 degrees and humid as fuck here right now. Can I say fuck over here? Sorry, if not. Lol. Something about having kids makes time FLY by, though they’d tell you the same time has dragged on, I’m sure. You’re a lovely writer, Jen, even if I don’t know what a hassock or halcyon are. Were you paddle boarding in that atrocious pink number again?

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Ha! Yes, the kids probably thought summer was an eternity. But really, it’s the winter that will never end.
      Now go shake off the lugubrious sluggishness of 100 degrees and embrace the sepia-tinted, halcyon days of late-August… On a hassock. Also called an ottoman or footrest.
      And thank you for the writing compliment. It was an honor sharing a Freshly Pressed page with you.

  4. kellylmckenzie
    August 22, 2014

    Yes. Surely it was just ten minutes ago that they were little, tasting solid food for the first time, taking those first few tentative steps, reaching out and bellowing “UP!” How is it possible that they leave on Sunday and pick up their lives as second and third year university students? Impossible.

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Yes. Impossible to imagine them as university students. Will they ever really learn to put their pants on the right way? Can’t imagine it.

  5. Jenn Berney
    August 27, 2014

    Oh, this hurts my heart. I know that feeling. You expressed this so beautifully. And I wonder if you’ve heard this cover of Thunder Road, which also hurts my heart.

    • jgroeber
      August 29, 2014

      I listened, and yes, that cover totally just hurt my heart. And if you want to feel your heart totally flayed (but in a good way), listen to Antony and the Johnsons sing The Lake. My husband put it on my breast-pumping mix when the twins were in the NICU, along with a slideshow of the twins who I couldn’t meet right away because I was sick. If he ever covers Thunder Road, I’m done.

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