I am grateful for summer, August specifically, though it comes with mixed feelings.
It was warm today, the sun persistent, but trying not to be hot, surpassing that threshold without intention. August is ending, as I write this, the calendar waiting for lift-off, for the checkered flag that says – August is over.
I have noticed that conversations have shifted from planning backyard picnics to discussing the return to school and what that means for children, for parents, for teachers. Nights are cooler, the air through my open window is fresh, making me sink deeper under my blankets. Darkness settles in earlier, as if I hadn’t been paying attention to its approach and it seems to pounce on me. “How can it be dark already,” I say, looking for answers on my watch. My watch says nothing about the darkness or anything else really, other than how many steps I performed today, ready to applaud and send out virtual fireworks when I step past the pre-determined destination and it tells the time, but not the darkness.
As I found my enthusiasm to crawl from bed this morning, I was remembering an August 30th many years ago. It was late afternoon, my new baby was asleep on the bed beside me, her arms over her head, the sign that she was in definite sleep mode and I could rest my weary body beside her. The curtain was lifted almost parallel to the floor, an August breeze eager to get inside my house. I was new to this mothering thing, not quite sure of myself yet, though I had six weeks under my belt. Six weeks seemed to be the mark of survival. Mothers used to be obligated to return to work six weeks after they gave birth to a child, as if easing into motherhood was similar to running the hundred-metre dash. How hard can it be, “they” said. Get to six weeks and you’re home free.
On this particular afternoon, John Denver was in my radio singing Season Suite. One of the verses went like this – It seems a shame to see September swallowed by the wind – And more than that it’s oh so sad to see the summer end – And though the changing colors are a lovely thing to see – If it were mine to make the change I think I’d let it be. Before the song had finished, I was in tears, sobbing into my pillow so as not to wake my baby and I couldn’t stop. The image of August heading into the sunset, with merely a wave over her shoulder seemed a greater sadness than I could bear. Those with more mothering behind them nodded knowingly at my confession. Postpartum depression, they said., shaking their heads, convinced another new mother couldn’t handle the burden, the commitment, the interrupted sleep, the endless diapers. It will pass, they assured me. Steady as she goes. That was forty-one years ago, and that same “postpartum depression” hits every August 30th, with or without John Denver lulling me into sadness.
I loved everything about summer when my daughters were growing up. I loved bicycles piled at the backdoor, the wheels still spinning as they ran into the house to refuel. I loved their grass-stained knees and their unkept long hair tied up in something that resembled braids. I loved the eruption of forts in the living room on rainy days or under the swing set on hot days. I loved freezie wrappers piled high in the garbage can and snuck into cracks here and there and everywhere. I loved bathing suits that hardly had a chance to dry between swims and bare legs galloping on ponies, and giggles from the deep grass where they fell intentionally, their legs somewhere over their heads. I loved hay forts in the newly stacked hay, fresh from the field, the smell of timothy and alfalfa lingering on their hair when I tucked them into bed. I loved the freedom, the lack of order and planning, the be anything you want to be kind of days.
I bid you farewell, sweet summer. Thank you for warming the water in my lake, for your wind in the trees that allows me to hear the Reef Point cabin again, the screen banging like a starting pistol as we ran to the lake’s edge and thank you for letting me pretend to feel Rainy Lake water on my toes. Hurry back.