I remember my summer holidays, like they were yesterday. The long, fun train rides down south, for close to 2 or more days. Lying on the hot upper berth, with the fan throwing more hot air around, in a languid daze. Making friends with ramdon people in the compartment, teaming up with new kids and becoming instant best friends, chasing each other up and down the bogie and playing card games. Looking out of the window at the passing procession of India, state after state, tunnels, rivers, forests and towns...Sharing food with people from across the country, eating a variety that one never got at home...
And then, getting to our destination, the sense of growing anticipation as we got closet to the station. Peering out of the window to see which of the relatives had come to receive us and take us home. Hanging out at my grandparents' house in Bangalore, reading my way through Oliver Twist and other classics, and years of issues of Reader's Digests from the '50s onwards.
Then Mysore, where my favourite cousins lived. We spent the whole day doing God-knows-what, with little or no adult supervision or interference. Our 'park' was a tiny temple opposite our house, and we spent the day swinging on the vines of the Banyan tree that grew there. We spent hours chatting and giggling over each meal, so much so that the adults would finish their meal and only then serve us, so that they could be done fast. At night, dad and uncle would get ready for the invasion of their myriad cousins and friends, who'd drop by to supposedly say Hi, then stay on for a meal, then drinks and endless games of 28 interspersed with airings of many old skeletons. Family gossip sessions were another highlight, and we kids would desperately rub the sleep out of our eyes and stay awake to hear all the anecdotes.
I'm a working mom, and though my parents live just down the road from us, they have eben away almost every summer since I had kids, visiting my sister in the US. So my kids, starting with Chubbocks, have been enrolled in summer camps. They have been great fun, from dramatic activities to an 'Around the world' series last year, arts and crafts, games and so on. And they have helped my kids stay busy and occupied at least for part of the day, given that both A and I would be out most of the day.
But I've always felt a little bit guilty and somewhat sad thinking of their summers. To think that they'll never understand the concept of unstructured time that they get to decide what to do with. To think that they'll never figure out what's it's like to create their own amusements and occupations, from fighting with each other to playing, getting up to mischief, gossipping, reading and all the rets of it. To imagine that they'll never have a time to remember when all the kids crowded into one room and slept huddled up together on mattresses on the floor, giggling helplessly at silly jokes and staying up late to play pranks on each other.
And so this summer. My parents are here until a week before the kids school reopens. A and I have to go to France and decided to go solo, sans kids, so they'll get a real experience of 'staying at grandma's, rather than visiting back and forth as they do everyday. I have consciously not enrolled them into any summer activities, hoping that they'll soon get into the rhythm of keeping themselves busy on their own. And later when my sister comes over, we're doing a weeklong family vacation, starting with a train trip to Bangalore with my parents and then a visit down memory lane to Mysore, where we all plan to stay together.
I guess the cousins will have many differences, from age-group to disciplines and schedules. But I'm hoping that we parents can find it in ourselves to let it go and chill, and let the, find their own levels. I want to give them a slice of my childhood summers to remember.