It's the last days already, and I feel like I've been chasing summer all summer long.
This week at the park Helena was startled by a motion detected in her peripheral vision, the quick drop of a couple leaves. She considers what happens. "Tu sais, Maman? Bientot! Il va faire du neige!"
It's gone by so quickly.
A playground summer. From May, when she grappled her way up the chute instead of climbing the ladder for the slide. The big slide. To recent days, when after much careful study, a few less than successful attempts, skin dragging on sticky warm metal, she slips effortlessly around and down the corkscrew pole. She proudly, patiently demonstrates her skills to younger children, the ones who, like her, prefer to watch before trying, to perfect their theory of the practice.
The young man in the fedora rendezvousing with a lady on a bench. Helena from the top of the slide yells to him, "Cowboy! Cowboy!"
Vanessa, the wild child, who rolls in the sand. She does not care for Helena, but keeps asking me to play with her. After many playground visits, I identify her grandmother. No, her mother, her very tired mother, with a horde of ruffian boys. Vanessa chases pigeons. She catches one and sends it down the slide. I scold her, chase the pigeon off to safety, and make Vanessa wash her hands. Helena does not care for her either.
A summer of scrapes and bandaids. Hopscotch. Months of awkward and strained leaps from one foot to the other. Now Helena can hop on one foot (but while holding something for support, and only once or twice).
A summer of new wading pools and ice cream parlours.
It was the summer of the bicycle.
The summer of Let's Go Fly a Kite, which Helena sings at the top of her lungs most mornings. Nights too. Our dollar-store kite never got much height, as we seemed to be inspired on only non-kite-friendly days. But it doesn't matter. She skips along. You can have your own set of wings...
On June 8, Helena was measured at 102 cm, 40 lbs. She's bigger now.
Helena this summer transitioned for one group at daycare to another, les tournesols, for "big" boys and girls. For the most part it's the same group she's spent the last two years with, but with a new educateur. This week, with our fellow parents we attend a meeting with him. I note how many times he uses the word "cool." For the last month, everything in Helena's world, so she says, is "cool," "tres cool, "super cool."
We marvel that, despite our best efforts, all the girls want to be princesses and all the boys play with guns (no guns allowed, but they use doll hairbrushes, or fingers will do, or build phasers from Lego).
We talk about the fact that they're older. Capable of doing things for themselves. Capable of telling stories (relating anecdotes of suspect validity) and making jokes. Capable of discussing, for example, their creative vision regarding their craft project (even when it looks like black scribbles and a gooey mass of glue) — they have a vision.
The other week they went to pick apples. [Insert photo here, the one we gave to J-F's sick grandfather before I had a chance to make a copy.]
Helena wants rollerblades. Every morning she asks if she can have some rollerblades. Every afternoon when she comes home she asks if I bought her some rollerblades.
Most days we still go to the park, before or after supper. Some days, there's nobody else there. Yesterday, Helena wears gloves.
One recent evening, too damp for the park, Helena discovers the chess set. I show her where the pieces go, how some of them move. She much prefers setting them up according to her own private patterns, with particular respect for le cheval.
We sit at the table with a pack of cards. I teach her to play War.
I remind myself that it's cliché for a reason — for the truth in it. It goes by so fast, they grow so fast.