Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Dog Days Are (Almost) Over

Each of us leaves one by one, my husband, my siblings, my son and I. In the end, my parents’ home will be empty of children for the first time in almost 33 years.

August is the month of dog days. Days so hot and humid that we give up trying to accomplish anything and sit with our feet in the water at the beach, our lawn chairs filled with tanned limbs, our broad hats tugged low, and our hands clutching the last summer novel or collection of stories or perhaps an old friend you’ve read a dozen times.  August should (yes I’m saying “should”) be spent at the beach or on the deck or patio or porch, in the backyard under the apple tree, and perhaps midmornings in the garden picking lush tomatoes or string beans, digging out potatoes for a cold dinner salad.  

Yesterday. My sister (eleven days past due) and I (with Mosey in his pack) walk through the planted rows of red pine forest. The sun lustrous, the clouds bulbous but scanty. Blue emanates, unites, then undoes me. I’m worn just a little around the edges, but Hannah’s frayed as a woman ought to be in waiting for her sweet babe to arrive. Hannah tells me she has renewed strength, I nod. I can hear it in her voice. She is vibrant, glowing, and ready. We cut off the path and tromp a ways into the forest. The two dogs scamper ahead of us, ducking in and out of the brush, darting in front of us, pleased with themselves. We stop, backtrack a ways, then start down another trail. We walk into the rows of pines where the moss grows thick and keeps away the brush and I stand there a minute thinking of the old fort we built together as girls in the boggy forest by the pond. I recall us trudging out there in winter to lay brush against our teepee fort—a wonderland of pine and fresh snow.

Days wander and I watch Hannah and my sisters and brother play round after round of cribbage to pass the time. My brother leaves for college in two days, perhaps now he won’t meet the new baby, the third born to our family this year. We walk along the trail in the forest nearly every day. We walk and walk and walk. Uncle Joe drives by when we're walking the road and waves, he calls to us, “you’re going to wear the road out!” and perhaps we would but it’s already pretty worn. We used to walk this road ten or so years ago; all summer we left after dark and traversed its long and narrow way. We talked about what we would do someday, who we’d become, and how. The stars cut through the sky above us; always midway in we’d grow amazed at the vast distance of the universe. It seemed like the future lay ahead of us, boundless and immeasurable, a thing to be obtained, to hold and to have; not water running through my fingers, not time dissolving like stars shooting—you blink, you blink.

The baby is bundled in primordial goo, its head pointing south, legs kicking. We walk our way out of the forest, past the berry patches, and turn towards home.