The last three summers, the best thing about summer has been my daughter. We were all living in California when I made the decision to head East and attend school full time. Though I spent two years in court begging for the chance to take my girl with me, I was told it would be too disruptive to move her, a five-year-old, from her “community” of friends and neighbors. Oh for Pete’s sake! She was a little girl and her community was mainly her family at the time.

But who am I to argue with the great all-knowing State of California when it comes to family law? Two years and $19,000 later… my spirit crushed, my faith in justice demolished, I gave up and moved to Boston to go to school without her.

There are many more gruesome details I left out (there are always gruesome details in family law), so in my mind, I was in complete shock that I was not allowed to take my girl with me. Instead, I settled for long holidays and summertime.

Summers from school I refused to work. Dirt poor as I was, that was a difficult choice. But since I only saw my girl for a few precious weeks (summers are only 2 months long these days – not the three months I remember from my own school days), I committed myself to her and only her in the summers. We couldn’t take trips or go to museums or anything – not enough money – but we had so many good times. Honestly, what makes kids happiest is playing in the mud, climbing trees, running around in circles and screaming loudly with their friends. That’s actually pretty inexpensive entertainment.

This is my last summer like that. I just graduated and now it’s time to work. I had a good interview and probably have a good job, but we’re still working on a start date. Anyhow, no more lolling about for weeks because now it’s time to put that education to work. But until I have a start date, that means she and I get to play, play, play.

Today is my first full day with her for the summer. I am so excited to have my world coming together again. Now that we all live in the same town again, I’ve been able to see her almost every single day. Summer after next, our arrangement switches and she’ll live with me full time and only visit her father on holidays and summers. It will be nice to have her call my place “home.” But being in the same town means we can both see her practically any time we want to. The three years away from her were filled with so much self-doubt and loneliness and sadness. I’ll probably beat myself up the rest of my life for “leaving” her, even though I am convinced that it was the best thing to do for her (i.e. get an education so I could get out of rotating shiftwork). It’s all behind us now, and that’s the important part.

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