Madison and I ran the pre-storm errands yesterday morning. We got some water, flashlights that work, and – incidentally – 100 4×6 photos of our summer from Madison’s pre-school graduation up until Saturday. That feels like a good a place as any to write an entry on this, the last day of summer.
“Do you want to go chopping trees?” I asked Madison on Sunday, before the talk of Flossie grew from a murmur to the subject of one-of-every-three Facebook statuses. “Chopping trees?” she asked. “I think we might break the ground.” “Hmm… what about some place that sounds like ‘chopping trees’,” I said. First her brow wrinkled. She looked at me with a mixture of confusion and “Dad, you’re stupid.” Five or six seconds later, though, she must have mentally come across the one thing that sounds like “chopping trees” that she knows because a huge smile replaced that deformed brow. “What sounds like chopping trees,” she said with a smile. “I don’t know. I guess we won’t go,” I said. “No, dad! You have to tell me!” she shouted. Lynnette rolled her eyes. She probably couldn’t figure out what sounds like chopping trees and just gave up. Bad role modeling. “I don’t know,” I said. I said “Chuck E. Cheese” in what I thought was an almost imperceptible whisper, but Daredevil heard me and shouted “I WANT TO GO TO CHUCK E. CHEESE!”
We went today because in the biggest upset of all time, it seemed to have stormed in several places on Oahu, but not Mililani. It was dry and hot when we awoke this morning, prompting me to shout my entire catalog of pop culture heat references including “Man, it’s a hot one,” and “It’s hotter than a mutha.” I also sang the chorus to “You Owe Me and IOU,” as performed by Hot Hot Heat. You get the idea. Don’t get me wrong – it’s been a beautiful day – but the blue sky and sparse clouds didn’t bring along steady tradewinds. After yesterday, though, I suppose two out of three ain’t bad at all. The air conditioning on the way to Pearl City was amazing. When we got out of the car in the parking lot, it was hot, in that way that it feels in the desert, like an oven. The AC in Chuck E. Cheese I quickly forgave them for playing a rendition/parody of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” sung by Chuck E. Cheese characters. I was waiting for the pizza to arrive when I heard them sing the chorus: “I want to barbeque (outside)” instead of “I want to rock with you (all night).” I almost lost my appetite.
Going to Chuck E. Cheese during the same summer that started with a trip to Disney Land can’t possibly do CEC (We’ll go with this from now on. I don’t know what I was waiting for.) any favors. Madison made quick work of the rides which were small, slow, and plugged into the ground. She enjoyed her time, but I think that might have had more to do with her improved hand-eye coordination.
We go to CEC two times a year – once during the summer, maybe once during Christmas break. Madison destroyed that gopher-ish game (the first picture). She made two or three baskets at the small basketball game; she was rejected by the plexiglass at least as many times. Finally, she stepped up to Fruit Ninja and did pretty well in that too, even though she was too small to reach for anything higher than halfway up the screen. She always just seems like Madison until she does things like this. Remember how I used to use the Victoria’s Secret store to gauge Mad’s development? Well, I don’t want to bring her into that store at this point. There’s no telling what she’ll say. She could try on a bra and start dancing, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all. She’s never going back there. Never.
Madison had her fill of CEC. We still have roughly half of her tokens left in her plastic cup. If Lynnette’s going to say that going to Island Snow after Kailua Beach is a tradition, then going to Dave’s Ice Cream after CEC is right up there. To Madison’s chagrin, Dave’s did not have cotton candy ice cream. She got mint chocolate chip and finished it, something she rarely does with her cotton candy. We sat there in the air conditioning eating ice cream treats. I looked outside at the parking lot. I could see those heatwaves coming off the roofs and hoods of cars. “Do you want to go to the pool today?” I asked Madison. She had ice cream in her mouth, but joy in her heart. She smiled and nodded. Our last stop in Pearl City was Don Quijote. I picked up a dozen oysters to pair with steak for the Last Day of Summer Memorial Dinner. It was delicious. I am typing this because the sun pours directly into the kitchen in the afternoon. Doing the dishes will cause me to sweat profusely. The dishes can wait. There are few worse things in the world than sweating immediately after stepping out of the shower. It sucks so bad. I refuse to let that happen to me tonight. Pace yourself, Phil.
It was fitting that Madison spent about 90 minutes at the pool where we’ve spent most of our summer. 1. The pool is four minute away from home. 2. The pool is free. 3. McDonald’s is either on the way to the pool or on the way home from the pool. 4. It’s cooler than sitting in the living room.
In summer past, Madison did not enjoy the pool. She couldn’t do much more than sit on the stairs, cling to an adult, and refuse to put her head underwater. That’s it. Additionally, her tiny body would get cold pretty quickly. I had no reason to expect otherwise this summer until that fateful day she decided she wanted to go underwater on her own. You’d think I’d have learned this by now with Madison being 5 and all, but it’s hard to remember: like other human beings, kids are going to try shit when they feel like it. Some of it will be great. Some of it will be jumping over the couch. Some of it will be picking up a lemon slice, squeezing it a little, having some juice get in their eye, then making it worse by rubbing that eye with the fingers that just picked up the lemon slice.
We went to LMU and Disney Land and Sea World and Universal Studios, but some of my favorite memories of this summer will be of our time at the pool. Earlier this summer, Madison slowly conquered sliding down the fireman’s pole at various playgrounds. It was remarkable to see her make the attempt, to tentatively take small steps, to figure things out on her own. I wrote early this summer that watching confidence blossom in your kid is one of the most amazing things anyone can witness. It is. The reason I was so willing to go to the pool every day – other than the fact that my tan would be as deep as it had been since my Mr. Phil Summer Fun days – was that I was treated to seeing Madison’s confidence supernova on just about every trip to the pool this summer.
She started off our pool trips this summer by shouting “NOOOOOOOOO!” whenever I said “Let’s go underwater.” Today, she told me not to hold her because she can “make it to the wall by myself, dad.” It’s kind of a sinking feeling (of course that was intended) to realize that your child is no longer completely reliant on you. Madison’s been incrementally establishing her independence from me the minute she started crawling. It’s the human nature. But that’s what I want, isn’t it? For her to find her own way? For her to learn and experience things for herself? For her to become one of those women Beyonce and her two friends sang about? Yes. But perhaps without all of the getting down like that.
I have a faculty retreat tomorrow morning. It’s the official kick-off of the school year and the death knell of summer. Mr. Higa won’t have to show up until Friday at the earliest. I cannot imagine wearing a shirt and tie in this heat. I can’t. Still, this was the best summer since 2006, when we got married and took a trip to New York. It’s been the least predictable summer since 2008 when Lynnette uncharacteristically decided it was a good idea to leave Madison at home alone with me despite Madison being two months old and my experience as a father spanned only those two exact months.
It’s strange. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel the urgency I thought I would. Maybe it was just too humid. I don’t know. Maybe it was accepting the fact that I was always going to have to go back into the classroom. I like to think, though, that maybe – just maybe – it was something else this time.
I was going to write a blog entry titled “Why There So Many Songs About Summer?” but I never got around to it. I had the idea for it two weeks ago and had been mentally building ever since. In it, I was going to argue that summer’s brilliance is the direct result of its two most prominent qualities: its brevity and its infrequency (as in there are ten other months in the calendar year that aren’t summer). I was going to use Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” and Richard Marx’s “Endless Summer Nights” and Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” to make this point and argue that the answer to the question posed in the title is that summer is often a perfect metaphor for the best parts of human existence. It was going to be deep and profound and I was saving it for the end of summer. Well, the end of summer is here and that post isn’t. But I’m not upset. I like to think the reason I never wrote that post is the same reason I felt no urgency this morning: peace of mind. Summer always ends. Lynnette and Madison and I maxed this one out. Like everything else good in life, that’s the very best you can hope for.