Squeezing the Last Golden Drops Out of Summer

As a Mom with school-age children, the last week of August always tastes bittersweet. With Labor Day just around around the corner, I take stock of all the things I vowed to do with the kids during the indolent days that seemed to spiral dreamily into infinity when the boys got sprung from textbooks last June. Ruefully I tally up how few of them we actually accomplished. Of course, summer isnít a competitive sport, and its allure lies in how unstructured and lazy the season can be compared with our usual over-scheduled lives. But Iím also torn. Shouldnít we make hay? And so we run around town frantically, trying to squeeze every last golden drop of juice out of the final days. And then we collapse.

We didnít make it to the Hollywood Bowl this summer, or to the Skirball for their musical evenings. We vowed but failed to get to Magic Mountain, and now it may mushroom into a housing development before the boys ever see it and I re-live my Valley Girl youth. We didnít go to the beach nearly enough. Will Greerís Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga beckoned, but somehow we never bought tickets. The L.A. Zoo has a monthly outdoor sleepover that sounded perfect for balmy summer nights but by the time I tried to book, it was sold out until October.

The paths not taken beckon at every turn. Sunday night, we went to a membersí evening at the Huntington Library in San Marino to hear a chamber orchestra and stroll the vast grounds at dusk. The serenity was beguiling. Why didnít we do this more often this summer, I ask my friend as our kids chase dragonflies and examine Venus flytraps.

That velvety evening was the perfect tonic to Friday, when we drowned in the sensory overload of Universal Studios and I marveled at the visitors who come from around the world to see where movies are made. Weíve visited Universal six times this summer because weíve got an annual pass, but weíre the type that management must hate: we bring our own sandwiches and fruit, wear out the attractions by riding Revenge of the Mummy seven times in a row and donít buy souvenirs. Why should we? Weíre blasť Angelenos who already live in the movie-making capital of the world.

So what did we do this summer? The kids had lots of play dates and parties and swam in a jillion pools. They went to day camp and saw a matinee at the Pantages and ate Indian food and collected just-laid eggs from a henhouse and took hikes and swatted tennis balls. They drew pictures and wrote stories and read books for the Claws, Paws, Scales and Tails summer reading program, which culminated in a magic show at our local library. My 10-year-old learned how to remove ticks from our dog. My 8-year-old discovered the Goosebumps books. And yeah, they probably watched too much TV and spent too much time clutching videogame controllers. But they donít get to do that much during the school year.

Tomorrow weíre headed to Sea World and Legoland. Iíve got to speak at an author luncheon down that way so itís a good opportunity to mix business and pleasure. Besides, sometimes itís fun being a tourist on your own home turf. Come Tuesday morning, reality will hit, and even though our mini-van wonít turn into a pumpkin, Halloween IS just around the corner. And thatís a scary thought.


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