Ties that bind

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Stephanie Hertzenberg

Stephanie Hertzenberg

If spring is about new beginnings, summer is about connections. It is during summer we are most likely to grow our relationships with others. Summer is when we attend family reunions and spend hours speaking with the cousin we haven’t talked to in years. It is when we go on vacation with a college roommate and reconnect. It is when we stand around a grill with our neighbors, oversee play-dates for our children, go for a walk with our spouse or plan a girl’s night out with friends. Summer is when we, consciously or not, step back from the busyness of our daily lives and work at connecting with others.

Summer is also the time when many of us are fantasizing about “getting away” from it all. But if what we are searching for is connection, why do we look forward to leaving behind settings we are already connected to? What are we looking for in the mysterious “out there” we can’t find right here? What is missing from our hometowns that we look forward to fleeing them in the hottest months of the year?

For some of us, what’s missing is the ability to focus on our connections. Life seems to get in the way of our awareness of those relationships when we are in the spaces we inhabit every day. When we are at home, it is easy to be distracted by dirty dishes, phone calls, barking dogs, whistling kettles and everything else we deal with on a daily basis. But when we are away? Removed from familiar surroundings, we focus on what we know and what’s important. We focus on our friends, our families, our loved ones.

We also focus on ourselves. Summer is a popular time for people to try out a new hobby, reconnect spiritually or break a bad habit. Some start composting and “going green” in an effort to connect with the earth. Others may connect with their roots by researching their family’s history. Still others may look for the subtler connections and wonder about the lives of those who lived in their house before them.

It is also during summer we may grieve lost connections with the recently departed. With summer being a major time for family vacations, those who are helping a family member through loss or who are mourning a spouse themselves may think back to memories of time spent with the deceased. The two viewpoints are very different, as two of our writers can attest, but both deal with the sudden loss of the connection we once had with a living relative.

But why summer? Why is it this season that we seem to be seeking connections?

That question I cannot answer for certain, but think on this: how many of your most treasured memories took place during the summer? How many times did you play catch with your father? How many hours did you spend walking the beach with your friends? How many nights did you hear children’s laughter echoing from behind bushes or trees as they played hide-and-seek?

Beyond the memories we have of time spent with loved ones, the simple fact is also that the very weather seems to push us to connect with others. After spending winter huddled inside and spring sheltering from wind and rain, the warm evenings of summer invite us to pause and talk with our neighbors in the driveway. Chirping crickets call us to stay at a friend’s home just a little longer. Neon sunsets late in the evening whisper to us to give in to our children’s request for a longer bed time story. Whether we realize it or not, we tend to spend summer reconnecting with those we have missed and growing our relationships with those we have near. We create memories under the stars and joy in the hot sun. We wake up to birdsong with grateful hearts and take the extra time to give a kind smile to a neighbor. These are the things summer pushes us to do, the little actions that help us connect with each other. Memories. Joy. Gratitude. Kindness. Love. These are what lasting connections are built on. These are the ties that bind.

Stephanie Hertzenberg, a year-long intern with Valley Living, served as editor for this issue of the magazine. She also works part-time for the Shine children’s Sunday school curriculum and interns at WMRA.

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