I was thinking today about a time when I was the mother of young girls (one a special needs child) and time seemed endless. Literally endless. I began blocking in things, trying to fill in those long empty spaces between naps, trying to find activities that would exhaust my girls and stimulate their minds without television.
Right now, all I want are those empty spaces. Especially in the summer.
Or even just a few more empty spaces. For relaxation at the pool, or a spontaneous trip to the beach.
And, compared to many, we’re not that bad. We only have two kids, and they don’t do 16 activities. Really just one or two.
My older daughter is swimming. And swimming. And swim camping. And swimming. And then she’s doing some lacrosse. And lacrosse camp.
My younger daughter started her camp on Monday: a special needs day camp that runs weekdays through the end of July. That’s nice for her, for her routine. And it’s nice for me, because I still have to work all summer.
So, we’re not so bad. It just seems like the moment we have a bit of downtime, it’s filled in with activities or must-dos. I really miss the blank spaces, when we had time for fun pool days (as opposed to swim meets), firepit nights, and unplanned trips to the zoo.
I think this is just the summer we’ve got. I work, the kids are older, and fun time has to be fit in. I would love a summer of nothing, but it doesn’t seem like many others are having that, either.
So we’ll squeeze in time at the pool and time at the zoo, find a night for a firepit here and there, pencil in family movie night on a blank calendar space.
The free time will be that much sweeter, because it is so rare.
For those of you with the little ones, wondering what to do with all the free time: enjoy it. Soon you will be running to soccer games and piano lessons, swim meets and tutoring sessions. So, for now, breathe a little bit. Let them use their imaginations to fill in their free time. Don’t overschedule them.
That will come soon enough.
Okay, onto Naomi Jackson’s The Star Side of Bird Hill.
Dionne and Phaedra have been sent from their home in in Brooklyn to their grandmother, Hyacinth, in Barbados for the summer. Their mother, suffering from what seems to be crippling depression (although it is never explained fully), needs time to get herself better. Just for the summer, she tells the girls. So off to their grandmother, the local midwife and medicine woman skilled in obeah, a West Indies spiritual and magical practice.
Teenage Dionne takes the banishment hard. She misses her Brooklyn friends, her boyfriend, her clothes. A bit of a wild child with strong will, Dionne is having a hard time finding her place in Star Hill (the section of Barbados where their grandmother lives). She strikes out at her grandmother and would be friends, believing that she knows better.
Younger Phaedra spends her summer figuring it all out, and kind of finds her place in Barbados. With a rag tag group of friends and a grandmother showing her the attention and affection she missed from her mother, Phaedra starts to blossom.
When their absent father comes to collect them, to take them back to the US, Dionne jumps at the chance, ready to return with this charismatic man. But, like everything in her life, things are not as they seem, and Dionne must grow up quickly.
The Star Side of Bird Hill is a coming of age story mired in tragedy and beauty, love and sadness.
Beautiful, lyrical, and lovely, The Star Side of Bird Hill is sweet and sad. Jackson’s debut novel sets a wonderful stage and tells the story of children straddling two worlds while dealing with a chronically ill parent.
Jackson’s story alternates voices, between Hyacinth, Dionne, and Phaedra, and does a wonderful job of conveying the heart of the story and the heartbreak of loss in many different forms.
I give this one 4 stars. Great for adults, but would be good for an older teen as well.