Years from now, when you look back on this summer, what will you remember best? Will you smile at the memory, or wish it had been different?
Summers in my childhood meant freedom. I'd roam for hours through pastures and orchards, chasing cows, swatting flies and eating peaches off the trees.
Best of all, I'd spend a few weeks on my grandparents' farm in the mountains being doted on by my grandmother.
Every child should get to spend at least one summer in freedom, running and roaming and being doted on. Actually, I think we should all get to do that. What else is summer for?
When my children were small, I tried to keep their summers as free as possible, especially if it kept them out of the house. We lived in a small town on the coast of California, with no pastures or orchards, but the kids roamed on bikes on the street behind our house.
Instead of cows, they chased each other through poison oak patches in a forest-like park a few blocks away. Or we piled into the van and drove a mile to the beach to hunt for shells in tidepools and get sunburned.
Our only official vacation was a week camping every August, in Yosemite National Park.
Talk about freedom. The kids roamed and hiked and played all day, running through the campground, splashing in the river, smiling up at Half Dome. At night, when they fell asleep, I'd leave them in the tent with their dad and go to the river to stand on the bridge staring at stars and comets and bears.
Fortunately, the bears were more interested in foraging for food than bothering with me.
There were a few summers when we splurged and flew to the Carolinas to visit my family. The kids were thrilled to chase lightning bugs, shoot fireworks, run from thunderstorms, churn ice cream and let my mother, their "Mimi," dote on them.
If you asked them, I think they'd say most of their summer memories make them smile.
Lately, I've been wondering about my grandchildren. My husband and I share nine grandbabes, ages 11 years to 3 months. The youngest are too young to remember much. But what about the older ones? What will they remember about this, our second summer dealing with covid-19 restrictions?
Their parents have worked hard to give them a summer of freedom — time to roam and explore and learn and have fun.
Randy, Wiley, Elle and Henry go snorkeling in wetsuits at the beach. Charlotte, Archer and Bee swim at their Grandpa John's ranch. Jonah, who's 2, and Baby Leilani play at a park most every day. They've all had a lovely summer. My husband and I haven't doted on them as often as we'd like. But I think, when they look back on this summer, they will smile.
What about the rest of us?
Lately, smoke from wildfires in Northern California has traveled far and wide, causing air quality to fall to unhealthy levels in many places, including at our home in Carmel Valley.
But last night, for the first time in days, the air cleared and my husband and I sat outside and enjoyed a warm, smoke-free, beautiful summer night.
I wish you could've seen it.
Years from now, looking back on this summer, we will surely recall all the hardships and losses that have been suffered by so many. How could we forget it?
But I also want to remember every time I doted on a grandchild. Every birthday we celebrated together. Every meal, every talk, every hug I shared with someone I love. Every song that made me dance. Every joke that made me laugh. Every bird that sang through the smoke and the fears. And every bright and shining star I saw last night.
What will you remember best about this summer?
I hope it makes you smile.
Sharon Randall is the author of "The World and Then Some." She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.