Take A Breath: We’re Halfway Through Summer
It should be against the law to complain about summer in Western New York, and so you won’t find me complaining about it here.
But we have squarely reached the half-way mark of summertime, and oh, right about now, you may be feeling the tiniest bit of summer fatigue if you had to be honest with yourself.
Because here’s what happens on Memorial Day: you catapult yourself into summer like you’re shooting yourself out of a cannon. You’re racing to get the yard cleaned up, the flowers planted, and the summer gear carried up from the basement. You hook up the hose, buy new beach towels, take out the recipe for macaroni salad and clean up the porch. You walk across a hardware store with a set of grill utensils and lawn fertilizer in hand looking for your wayward husband in the tool section.
You visit that store three different times in two weeks, always looking for your better half across that football field of domestic bliss, and the only thing they’ve run out of is the thing you’re looking for.
“What? No more Martha Stewart outdoor lights in the shape of butterflies?” you ask. “How can they be out of them?”
When your company pulls up that first week in July, you are standing at the front door with freshly made lemonade and donning a brand new sundress, and your porch is a solid copy of a featured room on Pinterest. You’ve got enough towels and enough French onion chip dip to withstand an onslaught of the troops.
But if you’re like me, things tend to go south after that first golden moment.
There’s the dishes to clean, the appetizers to make.You’re picking up cherry pits, shucking corn, refilling bowls of nuts, tripping on sandals, searching for someone’s sunglasses, boiling water, and stopping for another dozen eggs.
You find yourself at midnight one night looking for the last air conditioner in a one hundred mile radius of Jamestown, wondering if your husband would be willing to drive to Syracuse in the morning to pick up a used one you found on Craigslist. Your guests are so hot, they come downstairs in the morning looking like they’ve just crawled across the Sahara Desert on their hands and knees.
And your flowers look a lot like your guests. You could float your begonias in a pool and they wouldn’t be happy. You forgot to water them on a few occasions in between porch nights at the rod and gun club, and dinner in Bemus where it took 90 minutes to get a table and two hours to serve your family of 20.
You fell into bed thinking of your flowers and said, “I hate them now anyway.” What they’ve come to represent is another mouth that needs to be fed. You wish it would rain.
You’ve lost your car keys once or twice. When you went to look in your mother’s purse for them, you found your daughters sunglasses.
You haven’t had a real conversation with your husband in a week, but merely pass him at the backyard grill and on the porch from time to time. He’s been driving people to the swimming hole at the gorge, running to the store for beer and rehanging the porch shades that keep falling down.
At no point do you look at one another and say, “God, I love summer.”
But of course you do. You wouldn’t trade any of this, because by now you’re wise enough to know that you are fully immersed in an era and you know that all eras end.
So many eras in your life have already ended. You know this. You aren’t anxious for this one to be over.
This era is one where your children still like coming to the lake, not yet fully immersed in their own growing families, and the ones that have just started a family bring their boys for sailing lessons and fishing at the end of the neighborhood dock.
You are still chief cook and bottle washer, the sturdy organizer, the tireless crusader of the Fourth of July who knows how to cook ribs and throw together potato salad.
But this is an era that will end, because that’s what eras do. Time makes way for new things.
I remember that when I’m making my way up the stairs with a load of towels in the midst of chatter from the porch, and the dishwasher hum, and the voice of someone saying, “You ready to go strawberry picking?”
Because I’m ready. Ready to get in the car, ready to light up the grill, ready to do this again next year.
I think of families on the lake one hundred years ago, racing through summer and striving not to take one moment for granted.
Their tanned faces are hallowed memories framed in the museum of Chautauqua summers.