Usol’ye-Sibirskoye      Summer is supposed to offer time to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, right?  Now that Arctic temperatures and relentless blizzards have given way –FINALLY—to sunshine and warmth, it’s a tremendous relief to shed all those layers of clothing and skip out the door in a sleeveless outfit with sandals. Children count the days till they‘re out of school, free at last from classrooms and homework.   Adults usually enjoy less pressure at work, casual dress on Fridays, and look forward to a hard earned vacation (or staycation). Eagerly, we all try to plan fun-in-the-sun activities (with plenty of sunblock).

     When my twins were little, summers were simple.  In June they went to day camp, and afterwards we rented a beach house in August. (I know, lucky us!)  Starting at age 9, my kids went to sleep away-camp for seven weeks.  Fortunately, Max and Sarah went to different camps, so we were able to see them off separately, and spend weekends in different states for each of their respective visiting days.  Most summers, as soon as both kids had departed, Henry and I went on trips: Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy.  Those trips were much needed  second honeymoons, times when Henry and I could rekindle our relationship and pay attention to each other instead of getting lost in the hectic needs of everyday life and our kids. (Of course, we scheduled carefully to be available for both camp visiting days.)  How I used to look forward to those vacations!

     Like all parents, I missed my kids when they were away at camp, but once I knew they were happy, I felt happy and free.  Unlike most parents, I had twins—with one on the autistic spectrum.  After a school year spent shuttling Sarah to therapists, writing notes back and forth to her teachers, fighting the Board of Ed, or looking for a new school, I was always exhausted when summer finally arrived.   Don’t forget, I was also spending time in the neurotypical world with Max and the mainstream moms, trying to ward off the heart break over how widely my twins’ paths were diverging.  For me, summer spelled relief, an antacid for body and soul.

     In 2009 when my twins started college, life became easier AND harder, inspiring me to start The Never-Empty Nest blog. That was 2011, when Sarah was a junior and Max a senior.  Helping my twins to solve their very different emotional, academic and social problems from afar turned out to be much more time consuming than I’d imagined.  But summers were still pretty easy to plan. Sarah took a summer course each June and volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at a special education school for July and half of August.  Max had various jobs and internships which were arranged to end mid-August.  Those last two weeks of August, we traveled as a family. Henry always meticulously planned a vacation for four with ambitious sightseeing the first week, followed by relaxing on a beautiful beach the last week.  During that precious vacation time, we recharged and bonded as a family before returning home to the September stress of dropping off our kids (a day apart) at two different colleges.        

     Now that both twins have graduated from college, planning our summer suddenly became complicated.  No longer do we have the foggiest notion what Sarah and Max will be doing or WHEN they will be doing it. Although Sarah will once again volunteer at the same school as the past three summers, nobody knows what she’ll do after that when September 2014 rolls around. In fact, right now in June there is NOTHING for Sarah to do because—for the first time ever— she’s not taking a summer course.  Trying to help her find a job or SOMETHING to occupy her time (now and in September) has become MY job.  Complicating the job search is the possibility that Sarah’s film, “Keep the Change” will start filming for 25 days in late August…or sometime in the fall…or possibly next summer.  (See

     Max has one foot in New York and the other in California, as he tries to sell another television pilot while working on a movie script.  If my son is lucky, his agent will have him come back to California to pitch the new script to television stations.  If not,  he’ll  just keep writing here –and maybe there—with no timetable, ready to fly back and forth on a moment’s notice.

     Gone are the days when Henry can delight in planning a family vacation months in advance for the end of August.   No longer can he leaf through Frommer’s guides and gleefully calculate hotel points and airline miles to make our family trip fun and affordable.   It’s too late to lock in lower airfares or get those free nights at hotels.  Months ago I’d suggested that the two of us go away and leave our young adult kids to fend for themselves, since they’re out of our house most of the time anyway.  However, Henry worried about leaving Sarah alone for two weeks (more so than I did).  Maybe we could leave her for a shorter period?  Should we take Sarah with us, and leave Max home?  After all, Max is perfectly capable of taking care of himself, and we’d save a lot of money.  But how would our son feel if we took his twin sister on vacation and left him behind?

     Henry laments that some of the places he considered going earlier in the year—like Prague, Budapest, and Israel—no longer have flights available at the times we want to go.  Even if we knew exactly what our kids were going to be doing this summer, my husband still couldn’t figure out where we should go. All of the places on our bucket list—the Far East, Bali, Australia—are too expensive and require more time than any of us can spare.  As for simpler trips, (closer to home) Henry is NOT excited about North Carolina, Bermuda, or anyplace nearby.  Even though my husband desperately needs a vacation from the most vexing case in his legal career, he feels he just can’t plan anything.  

      Our family’s life is up in the air more than ever before.  There are too many unanswered and seemingly unanswerable questions.  We keep hoping for the “aha moment”—when a great escape springs to mind—but so far,  nothing has come up.  Meanwhile, summer is almost here and, for our family, it’s anything but simple.

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