Elliott at age 3 with Woody from "Toy Story."
Elliott at age 3 with Woody from “Toy Story.

In May as school wound down, Summer could not get here fast enough. The calendar was stuffed with school projects, presentations and parties. I downshifted to George Jetson workweeks in order to meet the scholastic obligations. There were various collections for faculty gifts and enough cutesy end-of-year initiatives to make you sick. Kristen made a pasta salad at 5am one day for a parent-teacher something or other. We missed the memo for pajama day and Margo was mortified to be wearing regular clothes.

Summer has to be easier right? We just figure out the drop-off and pickup routines for each of the nine different camps they are attending. And pack elaborate lunches each day because their appetites go into overdrive at camp. And text and call and email everyone we might be carpooling with twice. Of course we apply and re-apply sunscreen, mosquito repellent and lice spray. Can’t forget that. Although I’d have to imagine that there are some creatures who must find the resulting cocktail of applications enticing, no?

And don’t forget Summer baseball. Two kids, two teams, two practices, two games a week…four and sometimes five nights in a row at the ol’ (hot-as-Hades) ballpark. And in case we all weren’t perspiring enough, Elliott has moved on to kid pitch. Last year it was coach pitch and everyone got a hit and this summer they try their best not to get hit. Every at bat is part baseball and part dodgeball. He’s actually done pretty well on the mound himself but there have been moments where watching him churn through his thoughts out there alone is to bear witness to the very act of growing up. The anxiety, sweat, dirt and despair is on full display and that’s just me over by the dugout. When do we go back to school again?

This past Sunday night we stayed up too late watching Toy Story 3. It has been so long since we’ve seen it that Elliott and Margo had forgotten how it ends. When the toys were escaping Sunnyside, Lotso and then the incinerator, the kids were prepared to declare this the worst movie ending of all time. But then of course, the gang was saved by the claw.

Elliott at age 9 playing baseball and growing up too fast!

The physical hurdles aside, all Woody and his friends had to navigate were the emotional ties to Andy as he heads off to college. Pixar plucked the heartstrings well enough to have Kristen in tears. Me? Well, I definitely lost track how far past bedtime we were. After a tender few moments of showing a young girl how to play with and care for his beloved toys, Andy left them with her for keeps. He drove off to college, presumably never to see them again.

Elliott lost it. I was proud of him in a way. He’s matured to a point where he was in tears for the same reason Kristen was. But he was devastated. So now it’s after 10 pm on a Sunday night and my overtired, inconsolable, 9-year-old who starts a new camp in the morning, and a new school in a couple weeks, just lost a chunk of his innocence.

I knew what I had to do. I went down to the basement storage area and dug through some old containers. I found a box with stuffed animals, a couple of sentimental children’s books and the Toy Story dolls. I grabbed Woody and sprinted back upstairs, stopping dramatically at Elliott’s door. I unveiled my find from behind my back and he smiled in disbelief. It was a flimsy solution but somehow it did the trick and youth was restored for the night.

Leave it to Pixar to remind me that what’s happening right now—the school and sporting events, the camps and the chaos, kid pitch summer—this is the good stuff. There’s no need to fast forward through any of it. If anything, I’m looking for a pause button.

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan is an award-winning columnist who writes about family life and thinks everything is at least a little funny. tim@sullivanfinerugs.com