This morning, the earth has inhaled. The heat of summer is abating. A few more exhaling days of heat will come before the autumn begins in earnest, but still. There is a breeze that keeps making attempts to release and scatter everything paper tacked to the wall behind my desk, and I know what that breeze means. It's time to preserve the taste of the summer.
My daughter's been doing it for weeks and weeks. She found a farm stand local to where she lives, and she's got freezer jams (and ice cream toppings, aka, the jams that didn't gel) made of all kinds of berries. We've had samples - and man, oh man, is that good jam! Summer in a little jar. (And the lady of the house getting quite irritated with bad recipes and is learning her own methods and preferences so quickly it's like she's been doing this for decades, not days. I'll have to have her show me how. No reason for both of us to blaze this trail. Although, when "we" progress all the way to the pressure cooker stage, it'll be a race to retreat. Pressure cookers are scary.)
Meanwhile, I want to preserve a few things here. In writing. My life now feels reminiscent of the night I sat on our couch, third and last baby in my arms, and thought to myself, "Breathe this in. Remember it," trying and trying to tamp down the memory, embedding it in my brain and bones, knowing the effort was futile and that the only thing I would be able to remember would be the desire to remember.
So, knowing that the feeling will be elusive, but dates and years and diaries are still helpful, here's what I want to preserve from this summer.
1. This was the year the boots and BDUs came home. (A picture being worth a thousand words, the feeling attached to this picture still fresh, and tears have started to roll as I type, glancing at the bizarre feeling of relief and tension of that moment - because she was there - somewhere - (as The Great Husband murmured) "in the sea of sameness.")
She came home, all her body intact, her soul bruised and a bit in shock, but already healing quickly, even now, in this same summer. And for my part, the realization that our country and its military has not traveled more than a couple of psychic inches from the days of Vietnam and war crimes and soldiers stressed beyond imagination and leadership that could have acted and did not ... well, my soul has some healing to do too. But she's home. This was the summer our daughter came home.
2. Graduation at Evergreen State is graduation in a Fellini movie, and few celebrations I've ever seen or will see can touch it. Pure exuberance, complete with balloons, jugglers dressed as circus ladies receiving their degrees, and yes, the distinct smell of something sweet in the air, there, under the stair tower where I went to get pictures. My son in a hat of his own - spurning (with many, many of his classmates) the fee being charged for green rayon, and refusing to have a proper cap and gown. The band playing Dixieland music - in particular, a really tipsy sounding version of The Stripper. Me wondering where the (a-hem!) girl of interest might be in the crowd ... wondering if that boy will EVER introduce her to us.
3. The kid turned twenty-two and introduced us to his girl of interest. That's her - right there - in the red skirt and the stunning smile. We think the kid has great taste. That's what we think.
We also think that the ability of our three now adult children to have a party and dance and drink and laugh and have a lot of fun is ... well ... I mean, look at them! It's impossible to feel anything but unadulterated joy when I look at this picture. Bottles and bottles of unadulterated joy to be preserved this summer, and lined up, sparkling on the shelf, winking red and yellow and orange and purple in the shaft of afternoon sun that hits them right before it's time to serve dinner.
In the next couple of weeks, I'll add "insulated south wall of the house," "access to the attic," and "finished master bedroom" to my list of this summer's preserves. That's how it is at the end of summer. The heat starts to take an occasional break, and everything comes ripe at once. I don't want a morsel of it wasted this year. I want to feast on it this season, and I want to bottle every drop.