June 01, 2013
In summer, our house exhales, loosens its belt and becomes a more relaxed version of its already relaxed self.
Board games colonize the coffee table, lingering for weeks. Beach towels festoon bedposts and bathroom racks, their colors as vivid as the pennants of a sailing regatta. Young adult paperbacks wedge between sofa cushions, ambushing the rumps of unsuspecting guests. My children, free from school, fashion our rooms into their clubhouse.
The kids went back to school this week. To prepare them for the return, we’ve been straightening the household for the past few days, trying to restore our place to its previous footing. Slowly, like a receding wave, the rich sediment of summer has been retreating to cupboards and closets. Tennis shoes, flip-flops and skateboards are going back from where they came, gradually fading from public view.
Our son cleared his bedroom desk, readying it for another year of homework, but it’s probably all for nothing. He will, in all likelihood, do his homework where he’s always chosen to do it — at the dining room table, within earshot of clattering pans and rowdy voices as we make supper each night. That isn’t the proper way, I know, but at the very least, he might learn to hold a thought in his head amid the tumult of distraction. Upon such skills, careers as war correspondents or newsroom scribes are occasionally built.
While clearing the house, I stacked away a few of my own summer keepsakes, too. Most of the books I planned to read this summer will end up back in the bookcase, still untouched. I managed to finish a few volumes this summer, including Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s slender memoir, “Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming.” Johnson, whose syndicated columns appear in The Sunday Advocate, has the useful habit of writing books small enough to read within a couple of evenings. I haven’t finished her follow-up, a compact volume about Hank Williams, but its modest page length gives me hope that I can tackle the book before football season starts in earnest. “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” Robert Caro’s latest installment in his multi-part biography of LBJ, is a big brick of a thing that will probably shadow me through Christmas. At 712 pages, it’s proven more than my summer could handle.
No summer can hope to accommodate everything we try to pack into it. My son has noted, with some regret, a few of the items on his summer to-do list that somehow eluded us:
- An evening at the bowling alley.
- A road trip to the farm of a family friend.
- A tennis match at the local park.
- A visit to a favorite aunt.
Perhaps those things will unfold between now and Labor Day, as the school year clears its throat a bit, still allowing some slack in the family schedule.
We’ll need some extra time to settle into the new season. This week, as if touched by jet lag, we’ve been adjusting to the return of school days, the year depositing us, like groggy tourists, at the runway gate of autumn.