The Perfect Summer This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 14, 2014
Last summer I lived in Lakeside, babysitting four kids and spending my afternoons at the lake. The children were lovely most of the time, for 4-7 year olds, and Johni and Tasha were always looking out for me.

Johni is my sister, in every way but blood. I had only met her two years before but we were inseparable. Tasha is her sister, and by extension, mine. It was her home I was living at. It was small, so small that Johni’s bed was in the living room and I slept on the couch, but it was nice, comforting. It was peaceful, with a large yard and the perfect tree right in the center. It was tall and leafy and it cast a huge shadow that provided a much need release from the heat without having to go back inside. Most days while the kids played, I would sit under the tree and read a book or play games on my computer. I would have run around with them more, but my lungs have a vendetta against me breathing. On the days that my lungs didn’t hate me too much I would walk with them to the park and we’d run around, playing pirates and swinging, pretending we could fly.

When Tasha returned home after work each day we would usually walk down to the beach and swim until dinner. The lake was beautiful. There were sturdy docks and huge rocks to sit on and jump off of. Some days it wasn’t so nice, with lashing winds and rough waves that threatened to submerge innocent swimmers. Most days the sun was shining, burning unsuspecting skin and warming the shallows by the beach. Every day was like the last, but it wasn’t annoying like it usually is. It wasn’t a schedule, only Tasha and Johni had to be places on time. We just fell into a pattern, easily broken but steady like a drizzling rain.

On one of the nights I remember more clearly, my insomnia was unshakeable. I was sitting on the couch, which was surprisingly comfortable, mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr and listening to music. My headphones were becoming a nuisance, so I took them out. I was astounded by the silence. There was some sound, of course, like the distant hum of traffic from the highway, the steady ticking of the clock, Johni’s quiet snores, and the occasional startled noise the kids tended to make in their sleep. It wasn’t exactly the silence that was profound, but rather what it meant, all the possibilities that were. I could go outside and sleep in the yard. I could go swimming in the lake, run away. There was a freedom that came with the quiet, there were choices. I didn’t do any of that. I stayed seated and went back to scrolling, but I was mindful of those possibilities. Every once in a while I would look out the window as the sun rose. I knew that with the sun, those choices disappeared one by one. The world was waking up or at least my little piece. When I heard Tasha’s alarm go off faintly, I was unsurprised. As I listened to her move around I was tempted to pretend to be asleep. Tasha and Johni were always watching me and on more than one occasion made me eat because they were never paying attention when I did. I stayed awake, she worried, and I smiled. It was nice to be looked after.

I am looked after when at my own home, but it was different out there. It was different because they chose to pay attention, chose me to care about. My mother has to look after me, so it feels different when someone you’ve only known for a few years and you aren’t related to, someone that chooses how to treat you, decides to consider you family. On another remarkably day of that wonderful summer Shelane, Johni and Tasha’s other sister and also, by extension mine, and I were driving somewhere and she was explaining her dream. She was telling me that she wanted to go to Germany and get some recipes before coming back and opening up a bakery. She said, “And everyone in the family can come in and get a free pastry every day.” I asked her if I could too, my sweet tooth being extreme on the best of days. Shelane looked at me and, “of course,” like it was completely obvious. She already considered me family.

That summer was the best I’ve ever had. It was everything a girl like me could have asked for, the sun, a great job and being invited into the most loving family I’ve ever met.

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