Monday, September 30, 2013
A COMPICATED SUMMER
Summer is over. That is my final answer. Surely on September 30 the truth of it is indisputable. Never mind that the flowers of Edmonton are still out in full bloom, and the sun can take off your sweater in a matter of seconds, so fresh is the memory of warm pavement. Never mind that the wasps still buzz when we take our supper out to the veranda. Never mind that my sandals remain at the front of the shoe rack. Never mind that my birthday, only 9 days ago, was celebrated as a garden party with all the house doors agape and the guests lingering for hours on the lawn. Summer’s over, I say stubbornly. Ignore all evidence to the contrary. “How was your summer,” my friend asks me. “Complicated,” I answer truthfully, beginning, conservatively I hope, to describe all the things that prevented me from answering her question with the more customary “It was a great summer.” The list is a longish list of complications and when its highlights have been explored, it is time to move on to another topic. Those things that might have provided evidence of a good summer—even a great summer—remain undescribed. “What were ten of your favourite things about our summer?” I ask David later in the day. “Ten?” he says doubtfully—suspecting that he might be contributing to the next instalment of THE HOPE LADY Blog. “Make it five,” I blurt. No point in giving him a task too large to handle. It was, after all, a complicated summer. And I was, after all, fishing for some way of thinking that the summer might have been good. “Our trip to Meadow Lake,” he begins. I am surprised, for I have forgotten the trip to Meadow Lake. How could I have forgotten it? Late June was only three months gone. I am vaguely disappointed in myself for cutting the list from ten to five. I’ve made it too easy. Why, now that I have remembered it, I can easily name five good things about Meadow Lake. He could too, if he thought about it. He could list the perfect sand without a pebble to hurt our feet, the cool lake water, the prompt response to our call for a boost when we drained the car battery, the family of spruce grouse that delayed our trip to the beach, the ice cream stand, our shade-dappled games of Progression Rummy, the rainy day that snuggled us into the trailer for an afternoon’s reading and then turned to sunshine so we could cook our outdoor dinner. He could name these and the list would be done, but he does not do this. Instead, he rushes on. “Our week with the Haleys in Ontario,” he says, “all the people we saw in Ottawa, and the light show on Parliament Hill, and all the Sundays we spent at Mark and Tracey’s new home, and the games of dice we played on the veranda. Is that five? What would you list?” What would I list? What were my favourite things about the summer? I would list all of these. Then I would add some others—the good fortune of finding fabulous people to rent our suite, the generosity of the work crew who whipped it into shape for renting, three happy weeks of hands-on Grannying, the sense of family and the companionship of having my sister live with us throughout the summer. There were parties and picnics with my nieces and nephews, chances to hold their babies. There was the group of seniors with macular degeneration that I loved to facilitate, the people who shook off their depression and gave credit to me, the letter from the university asking me to supervise students again, my new volunteer counselling job at Walk In Counselling. There were the warm evenings on restaurant patios in Milwaukee, our introduction to the St. Lawrence Seaway, the cruise among the Thousand Islands, the sweet corn from farmers’ markets. My tongue tingled with the memory of raspberries from the patch. There were the afternoons when Lawrence mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedge. I loved the concert with The Once at the T.A.L.E.S Festival. There were stories to tell. David had been telling some of them. I loved the story about the bird who hit our window, then fell onto the veranda. It lay there for half an hour, a corpse awaiting disposal. And then, when David touched it with a shovel, it roused itself and flew off. “It’s a good thing,” he said, “that I didn’t try to put it into a trash bag before picking it up.” It might not have been able to fight back. Judging its condition too early would have been a fatal error. And I say, with that story in mind, that the summer is over, though we are, so far, having a lovely autumn. It’s a good thing I held on to the summer long enough to be able to sort through the complications and report, with evidence presented, that it was a great summer. For how could it have been otherwise, given all that happened in the space of three short months?