Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The End of Summer Loving

Summer issue of the Park Slope Reader is out, complete with a new Dispatch from Babyville about my love-hate relationship with summer in the city. Click here to read The End of Summer Loving

Or, if you're too damn hot and lazy to click over, well, I'll reward you by pasting the essay below.

By Nicole Caccavo Kear

Every June, I start a hot and heavy love affair with Summer in the City. I'm smitten with his seemingly endless sunlight and the opportunity he gives me to wear open-toed shoes. I can't get enough of sitting on the stoop while the kids play hopscotch and blow bubbles. The jubilation that comes with no more pencils, no more books is infectious, because even though school is out, I've shelled out the cash for a few weeks of summer camp. The sprinklers are on! There's an ice cream truck on every corner! Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high.

In July, the honeymoon comes to an end. The novelty of sprinklers has worn off and I begin to wonder what's in that soft serve my children are consuming in large quantities. The kids don't blink an eye at the sight of an available swing at the playground. Noses get burnt because I forget to re-apply sunscreen. The flame between City Summer and I is still very much alive but it does require some fanning. So I take the kids to fancy Manhattan playgrounds with sculpture gardens and unconventional climbing apparati. We step up our playdate game. We launch a lemonade stand.

Then comes August. When August hits the city, the living is not easy. Your daddy's not rich and your mama's not good-looking (though, for the record, she could be, in a season with less humidity and fewer bikinis). Camp is long over and I am on Mommy duty all day every day with a pair of tired, overheated whiners who regard everything with the bored expression I imagine Louis XIV had after he built Versailles. I realize that toddlers crap in the playground sprinklers and there's probably a raging case of cox sackie on the way. I want to throw Mr. Softie and his infuriating jingle into the East River.

Yes, by the first week of August, the passion that once burned so hot, so bright between City Summer and I is utterly extinguished. I know, for certain, that it's not going to work out. I just don't feel the same way about him anymore. Everyone else has walked out on him, to their country houses and vacation destinations, and now I see why.

All I really want is a trial separation in the form of a beach getaway, but since I have no money or connections to people with Hampton houses, I am trapped. So I agree to give my relentless beau one last chance. I plan a stay-cation.

Like deciding to move in with a boyfriend to save the relationship, the stay-cation seems like a good idea, but it isn't. The behavior that annoyed you before becomes intolerable, your few remaining stores of goodwill are quickly depleted, and you end up with a really nasty breakup.

Which is precisely what happened between City Summer and I last year. The breakup took place in the climactic moment of our stay-cation, when David and I took the kids, 4 and 2 years old, to the Statue of Liberty.

I feel a special affection for Our Lady of the Harbor. My grandmother immigrated to America 52 years ago, and she has described many times the way her heart was seized with joy when she caught sight of Lady Liberty as her boat pulled into port. Whenever we cross the Brooklyn Bridge, the kids yell "Hello!" to the great green girl. We have a large, artsy print of her hanging in the front entrance of our apartment. We know all sorts of trivia about her construction, gleaned from watching Ken Burns documentaries as a family. So we were genuinely jazzed to set foot on Liberty Island.

The good news is, I gained newfound appreciation for how my grandmother felt on that boat squeezed among sweating hordes with her two hot, hungry, tired children. In particular, I now have a real understanding of those famous words inscribed on Lady Liberty's pedestal, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

"I always thought it was 'be free,'" I told David.

"Me too," he replied, "But now it makes sense. After riding in that boat I am actually yearning to breathe free. It really smelled like crap."

The stench and the heat were only the first of many nails hammered into the coffin of my love for City Summer. There was also:

The pulling of a double stroller up crowded ferry stairs, provoking expletives in every language, just so the kids could stand on the deck and feel the bay breeze in their hair.

The wrestling with a toddler who, inspired by said breeze, wants to jump overboard for a little dip.

The consoling of a terrified preschooler after he is forced to walk through a high-tech security gate that blasts him with puffs of air (how can you be sure it isn't poison, the kid wants to know).

The breakdown of all sanity when after arriving to blazing hot, overcrowded island of Liberty, both children report that they are too tired to walk up any steps and demand to be carried.

The epic quest to secure a photo of all four of us in which we are not yelling at the kids or the kids are not yelling at us, so that we can always remember this glorious day (a big thanks to the stranger who snapped the one decent picture horizontally so that the only glimpse of the magnificent icon is about a quarter of her pedestal)

All of which culminated in my yelling, like I had an important announcement for all to hear: "I AM NEVER HAVING ANOTHER CHILD!"

And that was when I broke up with Summer in the City.

There was a week left in August, but we spent it in our air-conditioned apartment, reading books, drawing pictures and watching PBS. Finally, Labor Day arrived, and City Summer agreed to give me some space, which was convenient seeing as I'd started a dalliance with autumn. Could you blame me? September, that hunky stud, puts my kids back in school. He's downright irresistible.