There comes a day when summer’s end is whispered almost everywhere.
Is it always a Sunday? Or does it just feel that way because it’s August.
Three weeks deep into the month that steals the sun, we gather for a potluck brunch at the pond for a second time this season.
We do the same every Friday evening, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but the Sunday brunch is something special, arranged spontaneously by a string of unusually fair days, or in this case, by the approaching end of our time together at South Pond.
Some years we arrive for breakfast in sweatshirts, and other years in swimsuits, but always with thermoses of coffee and pitchers of orange juice and pints of just picked berries.
Either Carol or Joan (both if we’re lucky) will have a basket with something warm and cinnamon-y inside, and then there’s Don with his dish of richly crusted quiche; and Susan’s homemade goat cheese; and Andy, with eggs and meat, which he’ll fry on the grill under the bright morning sun until we are all well fed and his head is dripping with sweat.
Friends, and friends of friends, fill plates and gather around picnic tables or on blankets or in beach chairs in the sand, while young ones scurry off with bowls of fruit to nibble beside the swing set or atop of overturned boats.
Some arrive late, and heads will rise to see what new dish is added; and if empty handed, these latecomers will be encouraged to join the feast, “There’s plenty left,” we’ll say (whether there is or isn’t), and odd forks and pot lids for plates will be produced to accommodate.
No one should think on summer’s end at a time like this, and if one finds herself doing so, she should keep it private and try to talk herself out of it by thinking things like: those shadows are always just as deep beside the shade tree at this time of day; that patch of red on the distant hill is surely a decaying branch of leaves; the sudden, crisp current of the water is a relief on such a humid day.
After breakfast, we turn toward crossword puzzles or card games or conversation about the weather or politics or bovine lactation– with Coral who is off to get her doctorate in Alberta in a field that is apparently filled with possibilities.
Other young adults, once children, are asked about their college or travel plans; while other children, once babies, swim out to the dock or paddle off in kayaks, as mothers swim across the pond to the sandbar, no longer needing to look after anyone but themselves.
Someone picks up a ukulele and suddenly music makes more magic of this day. Time slows, and although we’ve all grown older together, it seems as if this morning, this pond, this community… will never end.
Thus I force my surrender into late summer’s embrace, pretending it’s not ending, as I open my novel and sink down into my chair.
The illusion is almost perfect until someone says she has to go, and calls after her kids to find a ride home if they want to stay longer.
I look around and realize that most everyone here can drive already.
By the time I finish the chapter, I see that same family, all four of them, walking in single file up the pond path.
Each of our families has distinct “pond” personalities–some arriving every afternoon and staying for dinner, others preferring quiet mornings, and yet others stopping in for a dip here and there in an otherwise full day.
As one who stays into the night, I’ve watched this particular family depart many times up the same worn path under the same trees–only now the children are taller and stronger than the parents.
Like a doorway out of the present, and away from our shared past, this family departs under a dappled light that most certainly is not summer’s.