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Jessie Veeder

JESSIE VEEDER: Summer a time to honor our childhood

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WATFORD CITY, N.D. --  Remember the days when learning about the passage of time was a fun thing? Counting the seconds in a minute and marking off the boxes on mom’s wall calendar in a birthday party countdown was met with a sort of anticipation that made the cake so much sweeter and the water balloon fight you had planned so much more thrilling.

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Remember asking how many more hours until we got to Gramma’s? Or for five more minutes playing 7-UP outside with our friends?

Remember when car rides to town seemed like they lasted forever?

And so did summers.

School’s out in a couple of weeks. In a couple of weeks, kids all across this great state will have three months to head to camp, beat their favorite video game, get 4-H projects ready for the fair, learn to swim, catch some fish, camp in backyards or just hang out and invent stupid and fun things to do the way kids are supposed to in the warm and lazy season ahead of us.

For these kids, three months will stretch out before them as their limbs grow longer and their minds open. Those three months might find them in the middle of their first summer love, getting bucked off their first horse or jumping head-first into the cool, deep water of the big lake in the Badlands.

They’ll have water gun fights and go on long bike rides, they’ll get in trouble for bringing things into the house that don’t belong in the house. They’ll run through sprinklers, they’ll get muddy and sun-kissed and maybe even real kissed.

It will be summer, and anything will be possible.

There is a time each spring when I still believe that sentiment. I say, this summer we will fix the corrals and figure out what to do with the old barn. This summer we will find time to visit Mount Rushmore, because isn’t it a shame that I’ve been all over the place but have never seen the heads? This summer we will catch fish and fry fish and ride our horses in the Badlands and camp out under the stars just because. This summer I will have the best garden …

And then I’ll look out the window and remember that we also need to plant grass, and build a fence and fill in the pieces of our lives out here that seem to be in a perpetual state of construction, and suddenly that dirt pile sitting on top of my garden plot looks utterly immovable and the long days not possibly long enough to get all the things done that can only get done in the summer and still find time for margaritas on the deck and a trip or two to the lake.

When we first moved back to the ranch four summers ago, I came here with no agenda, no job and no ideas beyond settling back into a familiar life. It was a time for plan making, chokecherry picking, weed pulling, lawn mowing and spending hot afternoons in front of the fan learning how to write again.

I had no expectations pulling urgently at my shirtsleeves, and it was equal parts terrifying and satisfying and just quiet enough for me to start making myself an agenda.

Today I see summer strolling down the pink road and I see those plans rushing to catch her, with bags of paperwork, books, tools and garden hoses flung over their shoulders, filling up my weeknights with meetings and deadlines, then pushing me out the door on Saturday to catch a gig in another town while my garden waits under that pile of dirt that isn’t likely moving anytime soon.

If my mother could grant me just five more minutes like she did in that old game of backyard 7-UP, I would ask for it repeatedly to be added to the end of every summer day.

Because even when we were children and time ticked slowly, summer never held us long enough.

But it’s coming, just like she promised, and I have a few empty calendar squares that I’m keeping that way – free and empty in honor of a fleeting season.

Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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