This summer, I ate the best sandwich of my entire life.
It was at a village cafe in St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Allison and I went there for a girls' lunch during our beach week that was part of my month-long 40th birthday celebration. The little luncheonette was fairly nondescript, and a family that came in with two strollers basically sucked up all of the real estate in the place, but the pimento cheese sandwich -- toasted, on challah suffused with butter, with arugula to temper the umami explosion with some leafy crunch -- was one for the books.
I can hardly remember back to the early days of summer, when we staggered out into the unfamiliar yellow light, nearly broken by the brutality of winter, and stood blinking in its warmth. We came out of the gate fast, racing to the amusement park and the zoo and the carousel and the playgrounds and every part of Drifting in Daylight, as if the season itself might be taken away from us at any moment.
In mid-June, Felicity graduated from preschool, and somehow I was (yet again) the only parent who couldn't keep the tears at bay. The sight of our dear-hearted five year olds in a circle with blue mortar boards framing their beaming faces was too much for me. I had to hurry out of the classroom after the reception, eyes averted, to avoid saying goodbye to her beloved teachers, lest I make a full-on scene. We went back a week later for Felicity's summer camp, but it didn't really soften the blow. The milestone had passed, some of our friends decamped to the suburbs, and the kids staying in the city would be scattering to the four winds for kindergarten. Over and done, just like that.
Since we'd gone to Disney for spring break, we couldn't pack our summer with as much travel as we would have liked, but Felicity and I happily took advantage of an invitation to Block Island one weekend (you should go; it's quite lovely), and we got our oceanside-house-plus-pool fix on the aforementioned St. Simon's trip with Allison's family and my parents. In between, we squeezed in a long weekend in Boston, where we visited friends, had a bona fide cookout like non-city people do, walked the Freedom Trail, visited the Aquarium, and of course strolled around Harvard pretending we had any right to be there other than as gawkers.
During our beach week, we did not brave the seas as much as we did in neighboring Sea Island last year, in part because of the alarming increase in shark attacks around the area (I know the statistics, I know) and in part because we witnessed a guy stepping on a stingray's tail in the shallows right by the beach, and it did not look pleasant (he fell into the water, screamed and writhed in agony for a while, and then was carted off by the lifeguards on a golf cart to an ambulance; someone said the barb went through his whole foot and could destroy the flesh from within -- true or not, this is something I figure I can handily avoid by cooling off in the pool instead).
Aside from the world's greatest pimento cheese sandwich, we also ate some extraordinarily tasty barbecue, sweet-talked our way into a members-and-guests-only club for my birthday dinner, and of course swung by the Dairy Queen to get a Blizzard fix.
Felicity and Maggie brushed and tacked horses and rode them in the smothering heat and humidity like the dedicated little horsewomen they are. My parents earned medals of valor for spending a minimum of six hours per day keeping the girls entertained in the pool so we forty-somethings (ACK) could wander back and forth to the beach (we wanted to be NEAR the ocean, after all, just didn't particularly want to be IN it for longer than necessary). Thanks to my parents' tutelage and Maggie's generosity in sharing her goggles, Felicity went from barely wanting to put her face in the water to doing underwater flips and retrieving dive sticks and racing on noodles across the pool.
The men went for long runs that ended in the pool, and all of us drank our fair share of beers out on the porch swings while the sun went down. Mom and Allison and I all set out to read the same book so we could discuss it like a proper ladies' vacation book club, but somehow chatting and catching up and fussing around the kitchen always seemed to take precedence. We all played rousing rounds of Uno and Headbanz (my mom's enactment of "fanny pack" earned high praise), and the girls loved getting to share a room and sleep in bunk beds -- both have loudly lamented the injustice of kids having to sleep in rooms by themselves while grownups get to share -- and they read to each other and took selfies and were generally adorable.
After saying goodbye to Seagate cottage, Felicity and I spent a week with my parents, where she got to have hours of uninterrupted time to play with their awesome toys each day, and I got to have hours of uninterrupted time to just sit and read. Unheard of. We arranged a playdate for Felicity with a dear child her age who is totally beloved by my family, and all of us mamas sat there misty-eyed while the girls blithely took hands as if they'd always known each other. We spent the last night in Atlanta, and after a day at the aquarium we ate at Pittypat's Porch, which is as good as they say. (Yes, we DID do a lot of eating in Georgia, as a matter of fact.) Felicity was anxious about how dark the hotel room was, so we slept in the same bed, our foreheads touching, hands clasped all through the night.
The rest of the summer, thanks to the magnanimity of my employers, I took some extra time off so I could find a new nanny (ours left us to go to graduate school, which was sob-inducing for all of us, but at least we knew it was coming so we could prepare emotionally) and spend time with my girl before she marched off to kindergarten and, thus, to full-time school for the next 13 years.
It was glorious.
We went to the Met and the Natural History museum, of course. We visited an art workshop at the Cooper Hewitt, where Felicity turned a simple traced square into "a dance studio where the ballerina is tied to the wall and can't get untied until she is done rehearsing" (I presume it's a Russian school). We had a few playdates and did a fair amount of hanging out at home in pajamas until almost lunchtime and reading stacks of books and taking delivery of furniture as part of our living room redo (which was well overdue, but also well worth the wait). We rode the new carousel on the Battery and went to a renovated playground and searched for the requisite Beanie Boo keychains to hang from her school backpack. We took the dog for long walks in the nearly unbearable heat and Felicity met (and charmed) more or less every other dog (and owner) in the entire city.
We ate burgers and drank beer and had more than our fair share of ice cream (Felicity and I had an ice cream taste test going for a while, but it wasn't very conclusive since she gave almost every kind she tried a perfect ten), and we went to outdoor art performances and had picnics and got mosquito bites and went to bed late and got new freckles and got sandal lines on our feet and finished the whole summer reading list and made gazpacho with August tomatoes, and it was everything we wanted summer to be, even if we did forget to go strawberry picking.