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In my 61 years of life, this is the first time I didn’t want summer to end. Don’t get me wrong. As a child, I relished summer vacation. Growing up in a small Midwestern town, we were free-range kids when school was out. The world was as immense as our active imaginations, and our territory was as far and wide as our bikes or mosquito-bitten legs could take us.

I remember putting on shows, draping a blanket over a clothesline to serve as our backdrop. And sitting astride our backyard fence with my good friend, pretending we were on horseback, surveying our ranch.

And there were the times I went with a friend’s family to Bean Lake. I wasn’t actually invited — or given permission to go by my mom — so I snuck into their car. All of us kids were giggling as her parents pretended like they didn’t know I was back there hiding. Yeah, I was that kind of kid in the summer.

But fall has always been my favorite season. I love the crisp feel of the autumn air, scented with fallen leaves and wood smoke. Fresh apples from the orchard. Football game day celebrations at the local university. I just feel better in the fall, full of newfound energy, ready to take on the world. It’s the time of year I look forward to for nine months. Until this year.

I think it has something to do with a 3-year-old girl who has stolen my heart. Maeve. Our daughter Kelly, her wonderful husband, Britt, and Princess Maeve are renovating their house this summer. Instead of them living in sawdust, we invited them to stay in the cottage next door to ours until their house was completed.

When the sweet little house next to ours came on the market a few years ago, we snatched it up, and my mom moved in. Since mom passed away this spring, it’s been empty. So Dan and I thought it was the ideal spot for Kelly and crew.

Needless to say, we have been over the moon about Maeve since she entered the universe. I didn’t think she could bewitch me any further. But something happened, having her next door, seeing her every day. I can’t imagine not ending the day hanging out by the lake with Kelly and Britt, and our wild little warrior. Playing Maeve’s rules croquet. Chasing her across the lawn.

But I think there is more to it, this not wanting summer to end, than just granddaughter worship. Dan and I have lived at Innisfree for a few years now, and we’re settling into our new community. I love the slow, relaxed pace of life here. How people take time for one another. In the summer, we’re all outside, and it feels like summer in my neighborhood growing up.

And, I just think I’m finally getting better at savoring moments. Being present. Being thankful. It took a few years. But I’m glad I’m finally here.

So, here’s to summer. To long, hot days by the water and the cool of the garden shade. To dining on the deck with friends, savoring food fresh picked from the garden. To brilliant sunsets, played out to a symphony of singing frogs and humming cicadas. To the belly laughter of our children. And, a quiet cuddle with my tired grandbaby, who smells like cut grass and sun.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at nellhills.com.

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