Oh the summer crush. There is nothing like it. I don’t know whether it’s the potentially fleeting nature of the relationship that makes it so intense. Perhaps a summer crush is special because it is accompanied by the exhilaration of seasonal freedom. Unlike the other nine months of the year, reason and obligation take a backseat to the vagaries of the heart in the summer. Maybe everything is amplified by warmer temperatures and the heady smells of suntan lotion, chlorine, and french fries from the snack bar. Whatever the reason, in the summer you sit a little closer, gaze a little longer, giggle a little louder, and love a little harder.
This summer, my boys have their first summer crush. On each other.
They are best friends. They build forts, find grasshoppers, fish off the dock, read to each other, go skinnydipping in the pool, climb trees, and giggle to each other about their inside jokes. They hold hands without even realizing it. Every night after they go to bed, they whisper in the dark about the dreams they have.
Sure, they see other people. But like all summer crushes, even when they are in a room full of other kids, they only have eyes for each other. They have a palpable, involuntary need to be in close physical proximity to each other at all times.
I worry sometimes that their closeness has prevented them, particularly Will, from spending more time with other kids. But then I see them lying next to each other reading the same book, or holding each other’s hand as one of them cuts a particularly bad blister, and I realize how special this is. Their relationship with each other will be the longest of their lives. So it follows that it should also be the strongest.
Like all summer crushes, they squabble about silly things. Who gets what Star Wars Lego figure. Exactly how many inches the door should be cracked open at night. Who gets to choose the first book to read at bedtime. Whether we should go to the aquarium or the War Museum. But within minutes, they have forgotten what they were bickering about and are back giving each other tackle hugs and super mooches.
Like all summer crushes, they nursed each other’s broken hearts. My father’s unexpected death in July, in the midst of our idyllic family vacation in Cape Cod, shattered the bubble of safety and security that childhood normally provides. But in the grief and chaos that ensued, they found peace and comfort in each other’s presence. Without question, they sometimes took out their pain and confusion and anger at the universe on each other. But they also sat a little closer, hugged a little longer, giggled a little louder, loved a little harder.
Like all summer crushes, they occasionally hurt each other’s feelings. Great passion is inevitably accompanied by the power to wound. But it is also accompanied by a limitless capacity to forgive. They are learning – at 7 and 5 – about the tremendous responsibility that derives from holding another’s heart. They are learning that loving someone is about sharing – not just sharing toys but sharing pieces of yourself. It is realizing the joy in finding the infinite ways to make another heart happy.
Sometimes, I watch them and feel a pang of jealousy for the love they share.
Their hearts are too pure to understand that there are different kinds of love. Platonic love, brotherly love, romantic love, parental love, unrequited love. They are too young to know that love can be complicated and messy and hard work. For them, love is simply love. And they love each other more than life itself.
One day, they will have summer crushes on other people. But not this summer. This summer, they have each other.