I don’t have time for much these days. I mean, I haven’t had time for much in the past 11.5 years, but especially now, especially in May, I don’t have time for much.
I work on a college campus, so I can feel the stress vibrating through the air as projects and papers come due and finals start.
Commencement is just around the corner, and although it’s one of my favorite days, launching those sweet hopeful ambitious kids out into the world, there’s a lot of work that goes into it behind the scenes.
Georgia’s birthday is at the end of the month, so I’m scrambling to book a venue and decide a theme and buy favors and personalized invites and order a nice cake – all of this hoopla a relatively new phenomenon that I both love (because party-planning is fun) and resent (because a great birthday party when I was turning 6 was having some friends over to throw water balloons and eat a cake with M&Ms on it and now I’m paying someone to make fondant emojis and I don’t really know how we got here).
Ruby has her first round of actual cumulative exams this year and is already working herself up into a tizzy about it all (“It’s 10 percent of my grade, Mom! That’s so much!”), and my stepson is gearing up for his first AP exam.
Ruby just finished up the school musical, which was incredible but took up a massive amount of time, and now she’s in rehearsal for her musical theatre club’s night of Broadway songs.
In the midst of it all, we have all kinds of special end-of-the-year events – Cowboy Day, Water Day, Carnival Day, Family Fun Fest, Teacher Appreciation – and then it’s all capped off by Ruby’s fifth grade graduation, at which I will 100 percent be ugly-crying.
Then we have to get ready to pack up for sleepaway camp – labeling clothes, rounding up last year’s flashlight and tennis racquet, trying on dozens of pairs of shorts and shirts to see what still fits.
But then, as May winds down, everything will calm down.
The students will be gone, and campus will be quiet with ample parking and no line at Starbucks. There will be no homework, no rehearsals, no tests to study for, no special costumes for special days.
And so in June, I will read.
On my summer reading list:
- Looking Back: A Book of Memories by Lois Lowry. Lois Lowry, author of the Newbery Award-winning books The Giver and Number the Stars, as well as the underrated and hauntingly beautiful Autumn Street and the hilarious and irreverent Anastasia Krupnik books, is one of my absolute favorite writers, and I can’t imagine her autobiography being anything but a treat.
- Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture, edited by Roxanne Gay. This one will not be a treat exactly. This one will be hard to read, particularly as the mother of two daughters and as someone who has her share of #MeToo moments over the years (which is to say, a woman). But I’ve heard great things, and I feel like it’s important to read these stories.
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. Although this book has been in the news a lot lately because they caught its subject, the Golden State Killer, it’s been on my radar since before it was even released. I’m an admitted true crime fanatic who understands all too well how McNamara lost herself in this case as I have fallen down many true crime rabbit holes myself. (Seriously, if you want to talk to me about Lake Pontchartrain Jane Doe, send me a message!)
- And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell. I thought I was ready for motherhood when Ruby was born. I was 26 and had a house, a job, and health insurance, after all. Plus, I’d been baby-sitting since I was 12! How hard could it be? Impossibly hard in a way that I did not fully comprehend until I was crying on my sofa at 3 a.m. and soaked in rapidly cooling baby vomit while Ruby shrieked in my arms. I read an excerpt on breastfeeding from this book, and I could have written it myself if I wrote that well. It perfectly captured the incredible sense of deepest love for a tiny vulnerable human mixed with the unbearable suspicion that you may have just ruined your life forever that so characterized the days of early motherhood for me.
- Caroline: Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller. Yes, OK, it’s fair to say that true crime to Little House on the Prairie is a bit of a wide range for my obsessions to run, but I contain multitudes. This book, a historical fiction take on the life of Ma Ingalls (authorized by the Little House Trust, so it’s not going to get too weird), will be an interesting counterpoint to And Now We Have Everything, I think, because motherhood on the prairie was also challenging – but in a very different and more immediate way. Mothers didn’t have to listen to other mothers yelling at them about how formula was poison or the importance of tummy time to optimal brain development – but they did have to worry about wolves and malaria.
What’s on your reading list for this summer?