This summer, Lily and Chloe became best friends.
It was the summer of Lily in a BooKini (bikini, to those of you not in the know) and Chloe in her Bathing Soup (or suit, whatever.). It was also the summer that we kept to ourselves: we did a lot, but it was either just the three of us or just the four of us.
Not one barbecue at our house and with the exception of a couple late summer dinner guests, we rarely hosted anyone.
And it was divine and maybe a little antisocial, depending on how you look at it.
It was the first summer after my Dad died; the first summer without him breathing, but the second summer without his constant presence. His last summer of breath was marked with his decline and our mutual confusion.
Summer 2011 was spent at a nursing home or worrying about a nursing home. My dad did not make it to the beach one last time. And he had no interest in our Jersey tomato crop. He did not even eat a slice, no tomato sandwiches, no broiled tomatoes, not a tomato in sight. It was a summer of him slipping away.
And then he died. And now we are here. (And yes, I am so sorry to harp on the dead Dad thing. But my mind won't let me stop. When I do stop, I forget he is dead and that delusion is dangerous.)
Anyway, this summer, I set out to make sure we--Mike, Lily, Chloe and I--could just keep to ourselves, with minimal outside interaction. It was to be our summer of isolation--a mourning of sorts, without the actual mourning (or wailing or black veils).
And did I mention it was divine? Our days were spent at the pool (hence the BooKini and the Bathing Soup). Our nights were spent doing nothing in particular. We did a couple day trips to Center City, the Crayola Factory, Please Touch Museum, Crystal Cave, Storybook Land and the AC Air Show. We took a vacation to DC and Myrtle Beach and Raleigh, seeing my father's brother, my Uncle Don, who not only looks like my father, but talks like him, adores my girls like my father did and makes eggs in the proper, Carrington-way.
We healed a little. And my girls became each others best friends--playing everyday, creating chaos, building dream worlds and running a little wild. Lily grew up: running faster, learning to swim and gaining independence and confidence that will carry her through this school year and beyond. Chloe grew up too: we saw bits of her personality emerge even stronger; her stubborn, yet sweet nature and her brilliance with words, just like her sister.
Our tomato crop failed; we just got one perfect tomato. I thought maybe, in the insane corner of my mind, that our garden was mourning too; mourning the loss of a man who loved tomatoes and vegetable gardens so much.
But now, as the Fall slides in, making the summer a distant memory, that one perfect tomato is a reminder that you get one perfect summer; just one a year. And often perfection is not found in quantity; but in singularity.
And we had it, one perfect summer in booKinis and bathing soups, just the four of us.