A Blur of Seasons and Satchels and Peach Cream
I was making a grocery purchase and simultaneously complaining about the awful heat because that’s expected in polite conversation these days. The clerk shook her head in agreement and added, “Yes, I worry about the kids who’ll be getting on that hot school bus next week.”
“What?!” I screamed. School bus? I haven’t yet planted my zinnia seeds and the rock patio I was planning to sit on all summer has exactly three rocks in place, the rest in a haphazard pile waiting to be moved and leveled. I keep meaning to shave my legs and try on the cobalt blue swimsuit I ordered through Zappo’s, but haven’t had a chance. The wood stove still is full of last January’s ashes.
Across the Bridge
That’s the way with the seasons now. They rush by and overlap or don’t come at all. Some mornings before light, in the haze of first awakening it takes me a while to remember what season it actually is. I went to Auburn. I used to know these things.
When I was young, summer stretched endlessly, a Delta road of a season. The beginning of school was far off in the distance, hooting faintly like an unseen owl. After what seemed like decades of outdoors play and lightning bug evenings, a new book satchel would be on your bed and you’d know the end of summer finally had arrived.
And Christmas, well, it was a million light years away, taunting us from another galaxy.
Last year, it was the week after Christmas before I got a successful tree up in the living room. True, I had some bad luck. The cedar I cut in North Mississippi and hauled to the Pass was scalded in the seven-hour process and lasted only a week. The Leland cypress I bought as a substitute was too small to hold ornaments. The Paris tree I bid on and won at the Bay Library was available the week after Christmas.
The less I do the longer it takes.
Fall is the best season. I’d hate to miss it. Fall is aptly-named. I don’t like when people get fancy and call it “autumn” because “fall” is more descriptive. Things fall in the fall. Leaves. Nuts. Squirrels when they miss a target branch.
The only exception I’ll make to my Call it Fall Rule is for that beautiful song “Autumn Leaves”, which always makes me cry. Something about sunburned hands is evocative and hopeless and perfect. I mentioned the song in a column once and somebody sent me the words in French, which makes everything sound beautiful, even the phrase “Here is your identification card, sir.”
One of these years when the seasons are longer I’ll memorize the song in French.
After the clerk sounded the fall alarm, I ran to my storage shed to try and find the ice cream freezer. It is illegal to let summer pass without churning peach ice cream. But, come to think of it, I haven’t had a peach yet this summer, either.
As a child, I loved it when each vacation visit my grandfather brought out his ancient freezer with a crank that only fit the hands of children. My cousins and I took turns cranking the cream until the handle became so hard to move you had to stand up and put your whole body into the motion. Only then would Pop take a turn, a grand finale with the licking of the dasher for flourish.
Life had many rituals when I was a child, and there was plenty of time to observe them. Adults never seemed in a hurry. My grandfather, in fact, could prolong the opening of a birthday or Christmas present till it became a game of slow torture. He would use his sharp pocketknife to lift carefully each and every piece of Scotch tape that held the paper on the box, an expert surgeon operating on an exposed heart.
It was all we children could do to keep from grabbing the beribboned box and tearing it asunder.
But, that said, Pop got things done, and he’d have cleaned out the stove ashes before the end of summer, you can bet your cobalt blue swimsuit on that.