At any one moment during the summer, there could be fifty people in my house. Energetic, loud beings – tearing around inside and outside, calling out to each other, jumping over tables in the basement, hiding behind bushes in the yard, or surprising one another around a door. We share the house with pirates, dancers, aliens, animals (of all types), scientists, artists, zombies and Dr. Who.
Luckily for our pantry, most of the characters are imaginary. They are in a futuristic ship, adventuring to as-yet-unnamed territory in the universe, or they are staffing the world’s most interesting zoo, complete with activities for those who buy a ticket to attend. Rolls of paper become murals for a new cave, country, or planet. Trees are climbed for lookouts. The pool becomes a vast ocean to be navigated alongside sea creatures. Songs are created and sung endlessly around the house.
Immersion is the word I would use to describe our summers. Not just immersion in the pool (as I’ve discussed before, my kids love to be in the water), but immersion into another body, another mind, and another soul. Their imagination isn’t a display for others to see; they are not putting on a production or a creation for the world. They are immersing themselves into another, fully becoming the person (or animal) in their surroundings. They want to feel what the person feels, see what they see, and touch what they touch. BE them.
These souls take a necessary back seat during the school year, gently pushed aside for the math book or the writing assignment looming ahead. They creep up, tapping my kids on the shoulder, beckoning them to come away. My kids tell them to wait a while longer, while going back to the learning at hand. Eventually, many of the souls find new homes, the repeated rejection taking its toll. My kids, too, look pretty ragged by the end of the school year, having missed their dearest friends.
The first weeks of summer are like long-lost reunions. My kids are hearing the tales of their friends’ travels from the year, everyone having grown a year older, taller (or longer), and more mischievous. Grand plans are made for new adventures – new ships built, new courses navigated, new creatures invented. My kids run around with a wide smile, and they are louder, and happier. At the pool, they dive over and over again under the water, coming up only to verbalize the scene, a running commentary on their new world with each other. Imaginations running free, with no boundaries or time limits, fills their souls like nothing else can.
No sooner does the school year end then we are opening our doors to find places for our fifty new house guests at the start of summer. Who knows – maybe with homeschooling full-time in the fall, they might stay longer this year. I would love to have all fifty of them, so long as they only eat like three.
Kathy Mayer posts regularly with her husband, Dave, on Chasing Hollyfeld.