When I was a little girl there was a field behind my house that separated the neighbourhood from the rushing water of the Jones Falls and all that lay beyond. The field is still there behind the house although the little girl has grown much taller now.
The field, which my young (and even then-romantic) brain dubbed “The Meadow” was full to the brim with magic. Yellow buttercups and purple violets dotted the grass enough to make a fairy crown for days if one was so inclined. Each tree had a name. The tallest one behind our house we named “wiggly tooth” because of the way he sways back and forth in the wind, much like Kyle’s front tooth looked the day we named him, swinging like a gate in his gums. The gnarly vine covered tree living in the shady part of the field was named “Old Man Oak”. He looked wise on account of his wrinkles, at the very least he was a good listener. And certainly, yes, they could talk; all we had to do was listen.
Beyond the sunshine where the robins sang and dandelions danced in a gentle morning breezes, beyond the shaded ivy groves that gave respite in July to us weary travellers; beyond the bamboo forest, the tiny island made of rock where we would collect shells and look for water snakes; beyond the cicadas hissing in the deep Maryland heat, the woodpecker diving into our siding, the grasshoppers jumping off logs and soft caterpillars we would pet with one finger to feel their fineness gently; is a memory of a girl laying in that meadow trying to figure out how to find a fairy.
Now, as a grown woman, when I stand on that same back porch where my mother stood calling the three of us into dinner; I look deep into that field and recall the days that stretched before me like en eternity and remember the name: Summer.
The fireflies still twinkle there, illuminating the whole world of the Meadow in soft incandescent silence; a reflection of the dark blue sky above glinting back in recognition. The roses still bloom in June right around my Birthday; blushing as pink as I would be when my family would sing and I would blow out the candles. The moss still hushes under bare feet at sunset, the orange day lilies and periwinkle morning glories still reach towards the sun against the wrought iron of the back porch. It all is still right there where I left it.
My mother’s wind-chimes rustling, the rush of water from the hose first sun warmed and then deliciously cold, the clap of thunder that gets closer as the sky darkens, the dew on the plastic of the morning paper before the humidity sets in. The kitchen windowsill decorated with ripening tomatoes from the garden, feathers, half cracked robins eggs, a little blue glass bottle found deep in the mud. My mother laughing in the kitchen on the phone with my grandmother. A cup of ice tea collecting condensation on the front porch. Moonlight swims and after dinner walks with Sophie (the family dog who would much rather stay right where she was inside, thank you all the same for asking). All of this still exists, the normal beauty of it. It exists because I remember it. Even if some of it has changed, even if some of the people in the memories are gone.
On hot August nights my Mother and I would sometimes, by serendipity, find one another in the Bathroom looking out the window. One of us would always be sitting on the edge of the tub looking out towards the field at the magnitude of the Moon. If I happened to be there first she never told me to go to bed, but simply sat down next to me without saying a word. Our toes matching in the pale moonlight, both of us trying to catch a breeze before another day began as beautiful as the one that came before it. I often think of her then, softened by sleep and moonglow, looking doll like in a cotton nightgown and I hold the memory dear.
As dear as I hold the thought of those deep afternoon thunderstorms of July that brought all of us from our corners of the house or yard to sit on the porch and watch the lightening strike. The house rule that no one had to utter: when the storm comes, we face it together.
Illuminated by light and shadow, I can see each of their precious faces so clearly. Eyes gazing outwards, a smile on the corners of their mouths counting slowly to see how far away the lightening was from the thunder. With a strike of lightening, a chorus of five voices would start: “one…two…three…four…” and onward until the thunder would clap to complete our hypothesis of how far we were from danger.
But I knew then, as I know now, that as long as we were together danger was irrelevant-small even. What was danger with all of us facing it? What storm could shake us from that front porch? What lightening could strike and split us asunder? No storm. No thunder. No lightening. No nothing. We would be together always. Wouldn’t we?
But Summer ends almost as swiftly as the storms that populate it’s evenings. And Autumn comes and with it the letting go of what was and the welcoming in of what is coming.
But. If I close my eyes, just so, and place myself flat on my back looking up towards the never ending blue sky of June, July and August, I can feel the grass below my ankles and taste the sweat on my lip. I smell the heat radiating off of the roofs while the bees buzz to and fro around me. And, if I sit up, see there! Kyle running towards me with a stick like a sword! And Mackenzie after him with a handful of sticky wild berries! Mama, barefoot, her hand shading her eyes and standing on the porch, whistling for us to come in for dinner. Daddy waves when we call to him, one hand still on the lawn mower which is buzzing happily across the yard. His baseball cap is wet from dipping it in the pool.
And yes, wonderfully, Sophie has decided to join us as well bounding through the ivy, barrelling towards my face. I shriek with joy just as she races past, her tail colliding with my shoulder.
And there we all are, together, always. And if that isn’t Summer, I don’t know what is.