tucking away the season past

i didn’t stir at 4:04 this morning, when summer tiptoed through the dark, took to the wings, as her sister autumn crept in, spread herself about the stage. rearranged the scene, scattered burnt-edge colors–amber, molasses, persimmon, pomegranate. the words themselves make me swoon, make my knees near buckle. i am a child of the autumn. always have been. always will be.

the itch of woolen sweaters up against my dry irish skin. the crunch of leaves beneath my soles, should i be so blessed to be in the woods. the delight of pumpkins tucked in coves around the house, and in the garden, too, as it begins to nod off, as its long winter’s nap is not too far away.

but this year, as i bid goodbye to the summer that’s just left, i need to bend my knee, to open wide my heart once more, to whisper deepest thank you.

they write songs about summer. but i have never lived one of those before. while the rest of the world rode in topless cars, along sandy beaches, strung together in bikinis, i was likely home. working at a hospital. swimming laps in a sensible black stretchy suit. thinking hard about things.

carefree never came my way. the stanzas of the songs did not belong to me.

until this summer past.

oh, fear not. there were no bikinis at my house. no topless cars.

only an old clunky station wagon, one with a passenger side door that barely closes. and a hatch in back that will not budge. and odd parts under the dash that seem to keep raining down on my driving feet.

but the summer just past was the most delicious i have ever known. if it was a tub of 200-percent butterfat gelato, i would have tucked it in the deep freeze, so i could take it out and lick it now and then. i’d make it last nearly as long as i’ve saved the slice of frozen wedding cake, now 20 years and counting.

yes, this summer past was rare, was choice, was morsel. and i knew it from the start. i knew it through and through.

it was the summer of no demands. no schedules. no camp tuition fees (save for three days here and there for a boy who lives to dribble).

i didn’t pack a lunch. didn’t drive in carpools.

i just perched, like mama hen, upon my roost, and watched my chicks nibble the day away. i swear i heard the sound of clucking, that contented purr that comes from feathered places.

indeed, and surely, it was the last summer my firstborn called this old house home. and my little one, who’s going nowhere soon, flowed right along, savoring the days that started when they chose to, ended just the same.

we did well, the boys and i, with no real decisions for the day. we partook of summer’s lazy streak. we ate late, by candlelight, in the old screen porch. we set out for strolls as lights in houses down the block turned off one by one.
we were on summer time. we were on high-volume savor.

i knew, deep inside and forever, that something rare was in my hand. something i would never have again.

i had my boys nearby. and along the way, somewhere in the thick of mothering, i had discovered my deepest purest bliss in the heart of that equation.

when you are holding something that you’ve wished for forever, when you are cupping it, sacred, in your palms, you know it through and through.

it’s no accident. and it won’t last forever.

so you hold it, and you marvel. you memorize the way the light slants through. you commit the taste to braincells deep inside.

you are, if you’re paying attention, watching the cement dry, all around the joyful string of days, the blessing of this time entwined.

i have learned, through years, to live on two tracks. i know the trick of slipping over my own shoulder, keeping watch on scenes, as they play out in real time.

it is, perhaps, the odd gift my papa once noticed, once spoke of, oddly. “you have a real sense of history,” he told me long ago. and i have come to know that my papa knew the essence.

i do live with one eye on the action, another on the meaning of it all.

and this summer past, i knew that all that mattered had been bundled into one glorious string of days and joys and conversations that did not end till eyes began to flutter.

i lived for the sound of the front door creaking open, knowing that in rushed another round of late-night stories. i brimmed when i heard the morning’s first footsteps over head, realizing i was about to be greeted by a curly-headed, sleepy-eyed boy, begging for another round of flapjacks off the griddle.

it was a holy blast of summer. it offered up all that the season of sun and sweetness has to give.

we licked our plates, and drained the glass.

it’s slipped away now. but not before i’ve bent my knee, and whispered thank you to the heavens.

i now know the taste of summer at its dreamy best. and i’ll not forget the glory.

what summer would you pick as the one you’ll not forget? and are you ready for the glories of the autumn?