A Lesson in June

June 19, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Family, Living With Intention, Summertime, Vermont

The kids are out for the summer and ours are all home one more time. I am blissfully working from home this summer without all the travel. There are a couple of projects that look to be a go, and I am working to close them so I can grab these three months without worrying about the next one at least for a while. We have a 23 year old in residence, a nineteen, and a twelve. It is a gladdening feeling to have all of us here together for what might be our last summer together.

Benjamin will be a second semester college senior who is actually starting to use the word graduation in a sentence. He is working for us this summer, fixing, painting, and repairing a whole host of two hundred year old house issues too small to get a contractor’s attention, but annoying for the inhabitants, or at least to one of them anyway. He was using some kind of putty the other day and I wondered how he’d learned to make the repair he was working on. Neither John or I are very handy. Some people have lawyers on retainer. We have always had a handyman. Excepting during the summer in Vermont when those kinds of guys make all their money for the year and our little projects get put on hold until after deer season. So for a few months we have broken light switches, fences that need mending, plaster that needs tending, etc., etc. Anyway Benjamin was repairing a board on one of our four porches. And I wondered how in the world he had learned to do it. He said he went to the hardware store and bought some tools and read their directions. Huh. Wood putty comes with directions. Who knew? My porches are gleaming next to the fence that looks brand new. And the guy doing the work leaves no cigarette butts behind and kisses my cheek when he comes in the door.

Hannah our scholar is home splitting her time between nannying and doing some design work on a couple of my projects. I hired her to do an auction booklet for a development client that was having a fund raiser and it was as good as any I have ever seen. She has long been a hobby photographer and now she has these digital skills that are another of the things I have never managed to acquire. Next she is dipping her toes into designing stuff for a capital campaign and another regular sales project. She works from home and is glad to get up at 5 to finish something I need to have at someone’s offices when they arrive. Then we choose the day’s toenail polish and paint each other’s while we take turns on the project draft. I cannot believe my luck.

Eli our twelve year old is living outside with his pals Luke and Timmy. On any warm day they are in some body of water somewhere. Vermont woods are known for their clean rivers and cold swimming holes. Today they are hosting a woodland battle that will likely be followed by a hot game of basketball. The badminton net is up and as the sun dips behind the mountain they bring out the glow in the dark birdies and the bats will chase the ones that go high.

John and I are thrilled to be here after the long pathos of the Horrible Quaint Country Store. We giggle and gush about the way this summer seems like our first. Was it this green last year? Wasn’t it hotter and wasn’t there a haze? The garden seems richer. We cut flowers and fill our vases with its pink and purple bounty. We hold hands and swing on the porch with our coffee after the birds wake us up.

We wrap up every evening with movie thrillers. We have been through the Ocean movies, the Bournes, nine Harrison Fords, The Sting and a whole bunch of others made especially for 12 year old boys with college siblings. The big kids bail on us and go out with their friends a couple of nights a week, but just as often they all come back and add their older silly voices to the cacophony of people fighting over the Snow Caps and Dots.

The death of Tim Russert has hit me hard. I feel like I’ve lost a dear friend. But it is a reminder. If I were only allowed a short life, but got to pick this one with these people, I’d make that deal. Tim made a life he loved. I think that is our obligation. There were too many days that I forgot the lesson during the quagmire of the store. And what’s happened this year is that I have remembered about joy. The joy imperative….these lives are ours. We get to pick what we do with them every day. We are the sum of our choices. I’m listening Timmy.
Now I just may go and have that Ben and Jerry’s chocolate and peanut butter swirl for supper…


  • katiedid

    The joy imperative.
    Wow just wow

  • Susiewearsthepants

    My kids have been gone visiting various friends this summer. I find myself at a complete loss without them. What am I going to do when they are grown? Hobbies.Must.Get.Hobbies

  • Kellan

    So nice to have all your kids around and it sounds like you all are having fun – the movies sound slike a blast!!!

    Thanks for your support today – I appreciate it and your friendship. Take care – Kellan

  • library lady

    And has there been any knitting going on?

  • Kate

    I can picture it. I really can. Thanks for your writing. I know that my parents wait all year long for that week in August when we’re all on family vacation. The only time we’re all ever together anymore… Through all the trials and scrapes my brother and sister and I have been in over the years, we’re just now starting to communicate again. As adults. And we move on…

  • jamie

    If I ever have kids, this is exactly the summer I want them to have!

    I’m off to find a way to put more joy in this day! 🙂 Loved this post. Have a great weekend.

  • Nellie

    I’m with Katie.I like thinking about how I am in charge of my joy quotient. This was a wonderful essay. I too loved Tim Russert.But his life was a great example. Some of the shortest ones seem to be among the best, huh? Bobby, Martin, Amelia,John etc

  • Family Adventure

    Brilliant post. I want to do all those things with my boys. And hug them. Hug, hug, hug. Until they’ll no longer let me.

    Tim Russert’s death was such a shock…so young, so much vitality. Gone? It makes no sense, but it does serve as a reminder to appreciate.

    I hope you and yours have the best summer!

    Hugs – Heidi

  • Angela

    You have lifted my spirits as usual! I love your blog.

  • Cal

    I wish they’d have that flavor at the grocery store. We don’t have a B&J here
    Sweet post. I love your summer. To have adult kids as friends is the greatest testament to good parenting and family life

  • Anonymous

    Tim Russert taught me about the world. i miss him and am grieving for the first time ever a public person. but this is right too. his early death teaches us to live and be present for our own lives as he was for his.
    thanks js

  • the dragonfly

    It sounds like you’re having a wonderful summer. Live and love life! 🙂

  • kat

    I love how you always do that grab us at the end with a twist and a remminder that stays with me a while

  • painted maypole

    sounds so wonderful, and like you are fully enjoying it!

  • Mighty Morphin' Mama

    You have such a wonderful family and blessed life, I am so in awe of the choices you have made to bring you there. Just amazing!

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