Another Bittersweet Empty Nest Summer

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If you follow me on social media, you probably can’t stand me in the summer.

I’m the grown-up who acts like a teenager. I post pictures of frolicking in the water, belly laughing on a boat, and drinking tequila against a fiery sunset background with my friends. It must be annoying to anyone who follows me on social media. Part of me worries it’s braggadocious. The other part, the one that chooses to hit the “post”  button, knows how deeply I will need to see these pictures long after the suntan fades.

I am a New Englander. Days of sunshine and temps in the eighties are finite. I live in a part of the country with about eight or nine weekends of good enough weather to go to the beach. Some years we are blessed with a few more days of brilliant sun and delicious heat. Some years we are bound to get less.

Between July 1 and Labor Day, I feel like it’s my duty to show the world that New Englanders aren’t just the drivers who cut you off on the Massachusetts Turnpike, or look down at the sidewalk instead of saying hello. We suddenly become nice. We are kinder and gentler. We like to have a beer on the back porch, catch a striped bass on a center console and post a hundred pictures of the same darn sunset that everyone who lives in Florida sees all year long.

The summer allows northerners to see each other in a different light (pun intended as it gets dark at 3 pm in November.) I drive slower and let cars in with a smile and a wave. I talk to the people in the grocery store. I make plans with friends on school nights. I wear dresses with flip flops. I have a cocktail before 5 o’clock. And I post ALL OF IT on social media.

Last Sunday, I was sitting on a porch in a blaze of heat with a group of people I see mainly in the summer. We all live in different places but converge in Cape Cod for this fleeting amount of time. My girlfriend was teasing me about my constant photo taking and posting. I told her that she would thank me when I send the memory shot next February when she is trapped in her house under six feet of snow. The teasing stopped fairly quickly. We all hate winter. And it seems to last forever in Massachusetts.

Some years, my summers were even shorter. Back to school, college move-ins, and graduations took priority over languishing in a low-beach chair reading a trashy novel.

When I look back now, I realize that the things that made summer so short made it even sweeter because my family vacationed together. I had babies who slept under a beach tent. I had children who lived for nightly ice cream runs. I had teenagers who made beach bonfires.  I had college-aged young women who worked summers as waitresses and sailing camp instructors. Even the most beautiful of sunsets cannot replace the years that brought me so much joy with my immediate and wonderful family. And I know this rings true for families who live in Florida, California, Ohio and Texas – because summer is the time when the children are free to belong to us without sports, homework and alarm clocks.

Now it is just me and the hubby and summer friends and guests, with as many visits as my career-minded daughters can offer us given the distance and their busy work and social lives. Maybe I love summer because I equate this time of year with the wonderful memories of my two girls in their little bathing suits, in their swim shoes, holding our hands as we watched the sunset together.

Maybe that is why I post constantly during the summer, because I want to recapture this full nest time — when were a family making sandcastles and swimming in the ocean until the skin on our fingers puckered.

A few nights ago and a couple of glasses of wine later, I watched my neighbor cross the gravel path back to her house in the thickness of the air that would soon become a late summer thunderstorm. I could feel the bell ringing on the end of the season. Even though I am not rushing anywhere to buy school supplies, new clothing and get the kids back on their normal sleep schedule, I still have a heavy heart when I think about transitioning into another season. “Fall is beautiful,” everyone says and fall in New England is delicious. It is, however, not summer.

Even though I may no longer be shaking the sand out of my little girls’ swim bloomers, this finite amount of time still feels magical. The memories, captured and displayed across social media, sustain me all year long. Old photos of my girls and are summers near the ocean bring tears to my eyes and a realization that life goes by way too quickly.

I went to listen to Big Head Todd and The Monsters at a summer concert series put on by a local favorite place, The Black Dog. When lead singer Todd Park Mohr belted out the words to Bittersweet, I couldn’t help but think that he was speaking to me — about my yearning for the time when the girls were little and my desire to make summertime stand still.  “It’s bittersweet more sweet than bitter, bitter than sweet. It’s a bittersweet surrender.”

While I surrender to the reality that time flies and summer is fleeting, I refuse to stop snapping pictures of these rare moments and posting them. As long as I can still put my bathing suit on by myself, you’ll see my every move.  Follow me if you dare.

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About Author

Mimi L. Golub is the Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Living the Second Act, an online magazine for women in their 40s and 50s who are seeking the truth. Mimi has written for numerous publications including The Huffington Post. She is the author of the someday-to-be-published novel, Boxed In. Mimi is also the writer and a staff editor of From Our Kitchens, a nonprofit cookbook that was released in 2018. In her spare time, Mimi loves to workout, drink tequila, and volunteer with many local causes. She lives in Newton, MA, with her husband and has twin girls who have left the nest. You can find her former work on: tequilainbed.com Follow Mimi on Twitter @mimigolub

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