The End of Summer

The day is hot. Hot, and I’m exhausted, and sluggish, and full of effort from the heat. So sluggish I say, lets drive to the river.  All summer long I’ve insisted on walking, or biking, even carrying inner tubes, and life vests, and water, and food, and shoes, and towels, and pulling dogs on leashes.  Now, I give it all up and drive. I think the swim hole will be crowded but it’s not. School has started and we only have an hour or less before the sun goes. I remember we swam on into last September too.  We went to the river after school, for weeks, picked berries with our feet in the water, explored up and down stream as if summer would never end, staying until the last fading light chased us home.

We were always the only ones. Everyone else had moved on to football or volleyball or dance classes, and homework and tutors.  I opt out of all that. I say we’ll do sports in winter and spring; homework is after dinner, maybe.  I think it’s better to be outside and to ease into everything else.

Today when we get to the river’s edge the water is flat, dark, and shaded.  The air cool.  The sun shines on the opposite bank and I wade over while my son climbs up the alder tree to the rope swing. He doesn’t want to jump or swing so much as see fish. “Steelhead,” he shouts as one leaps into the air then lands with a loud splash. Then there is another and another. He thinks he might want to swim with the fish even though it is shady and cool.

The dog follows me into the sun. She plunges clumsily into the water, snapping at falling leaves, chasing them down the river. The water is cool but not cold, shallower than it has been all summer, barely reaching my knees.   I dunk my face but the desire to swim has dissipated until my son falls off the log and into the water, clothes and all.  Laughs when he comes to the surface.  So, I go too – dive beneath the water.

When I get to the small beach on the far side, the rocks are warm and the sand hot against my bare feet.   It feels good, more than good, it’s as if some burden is taken away, though I can’t figure what. My son swims over and joins me in the sun. We watch leaves drift through the air and laugh at the dog chasing them.  We pick blackberries from the bushes, the dog too.  She delicately pulls berries from the bottom vines.  Then, as if all of a sudden, the sun disappears, and we’re cold. Our shorts and shirts wet and we have no towels. We swim quickly back across the river and climb up the bank to the trail and car.   I turn on the heat and we drive home.

I drop my son at the school the next day. It’s a tiny school compound and we pass the high school boys just before the elementary door where they play hacky sack before classes.

“Just think,” I say to my son, “that will be you someday, hanging with your friends before the high school bell rings.” He pulls his backpack on and opens the door “Yep!” he says.  “Less than three years,” he says and jumps out, slams the door.

“No,” I say out loud to no one.   “That’s absurd!” But then I realize he’s right.  The new season, the next year, the time to move ahead has arrived.  Too soon, I think. Too soon.  I’m not ready yet, not ready  to say goodbye to summer, to let go all these golden days of growing.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy McKendry says:

    I really like this essay. It’s a snapshot of the emotional landscape of leaving summer for fall.

  2. Thanks Amy! But i do love fall too esp now that its raining and I don’t feel so compelled to be outside till the last little bit of daylight

  3. “… the golden days of growing.” That’s lovely.

  4. Aunt Beulah says:

    There is much to ponder in this post, much to reread. The metaphor of the seasons and the passages of our life is lovely.

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