Thursday, September 14, 2006

one for the road

Summer, like a good Minnesotan, has begun to say her long good-bye. She began edging toward the door a week or so ago, wrapping us in warm hugs and blowing cool air kisses across our cheeks. She stepped out onto the porch, down a stair or two, but has come back up for a bit more gossip.

In another week she'll start down the walk to her car and start the motor, then turn the ignition back off when we lean in for just one more story. Eventually, in October, she'll shift into reverse, we'll wave from the end of the driveway, and by November she'll pull out of sight around the corner at the end of the block.

Summer is not an entirely gracious guest. She never arrives when she says she will, then bursts in without warning one day in May and unpacks all her green baggage before we have a chance to tune up the mower or get the picnic table and chairs out of storage. It's great for a while — haven't seen you in so long! So much to catch up on! — but by late July we're getting on each other's nerves and she turns the lawn brown out of spite.

We get over our spat, though, as we always do with the end of her visit in sight. We linger over lemonade on the deck through August and watch with regret as she begins packing to leave. She puts the humidity in her bag first, and to be honest we don't miss it, but its absence means other changes are in store as well. Box elder bugs will come to feast on the crumbs under her chair, the sun will get lazy, the blanket will find its way back to the foot of the bed.

As she's leaving, we begin to notice what she's left behind: lush grass and burgeoning gardens, a litter of dried leaves piled against the fence, fat rabbits and restless birds, bleached hair and sunshiny vacation photos. We've had a great time, but the party is drawing to a close. She drains her glass, stands, stretches, says well, it's getting late . . .


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