The door to summer opens, and letters, messages, arrive… Ah, delight: there is company coming.
They survey the guest area–a pull out couch in the living room. The room has three entries; the back two can be shuttered with louvered doors, but the large front arch, the entry by the foyer, is too big for a traditional door. When people stay overnight, they hang a curtain there from a spring tension rod. The dog walks underneath it and jumps onto the pulled out bed. People cut through, saying, “Oh, SORRY!” when chastised.
Sometimes the guests sleep there; sometimes they put the guests in the master and sleep there themselves. The common space shrinks to the family room. It’s awkward, at best.
She wonders… They go upstairs and stand in the doorway of her little box room, which is filled with craft items and boxes, photos and gifties, frames and wrapping paper and spools of silky ribbon. A tiny room. A room with no door.
Could we, she speculates, hang one of those barn door hardware contraptions? He backs in to the room, looks at the doorway, pulls out a measuring tape.
He searches the internet for the hardware.
“Yarrrgh!” he says, “expensive!” But then he locates a set for less than a third of what the big box stores charge. He places the order.
They pack all the crafty stuff into plastic bins and move them to the basement. The dusty curtains go down the laundry chute. She pulls out the vacuum and sucks up dust and tiny shreds of paper. They dismantle a heavy old wooden table and lug it, in pieces, down to join the bins.
She finds a black iron day bed for seventy dollars; he puts it together. It fits snugly into the alcove formed by the dormer window. They search the ads for deals and find a mattress on sale at a discount store. When they arrive to pick it up, they discover everything’s on sale, and there’s an extra discount with their member card. They buy a bucket chair, a tiny dresser, a bedside table.
He and the boy go out to the garage and clean. In the process, they uncover an old wooden door. They set up a workshop,—sawhorses, electric sander. He sands the door smooth, paints it a soft, shining white. The hardware arrives and he drags it and the door upstairs, mounts the black brackets, hangs the door. The door looks perfect.
The new guest room is a tiny, pretty, welcoming gem.
Well, it’s summer, they think. It feels like anything is possible.
She begins walking again, at night, feeling the stretch in her legs; her IPod cranks out Leonard Cohen and she catches herself marching and singing along. She smiles at passersby–the whippet-thin running woman whose ponytail pounds from shoulder to shoulder, the acrobatic biking boys who stand to charge up a long curved hilly drive. Their payoff is the thrilling return trip, navigating the downhill curves, wind riffling their short, hot-weather hair. They zoom out onto the sidewalk, grinning, wheel around, pedal up the energy to try it again.
She thinks at first she’s crazy to try, too tired, old, and crazy to pedal up her own energy; but soon she is walking three miles a night.
On Tuesdays, she brings big bags of fresh, local veggies home from work; they spread them out and scrutinize. Can we eat all this? they wonder. Then they begin to see recipes everywhere they turn. They chop and blanch and freeze; they stir together Italian wedding soup with homemade chicken broth, fresh chopped kale, tiny orzo noodles. Instead of of meatballs, they brown Italian sausage, brought back special from western New York. It is tangy and pungent; they crumble it up into the soup, eat big bowls with crusty bread from an Italian baker, and freeze containers to take for lunch.
They grill veggies and saute them; they bake chicken with summer squash and carrots. They make dips and pesto. New recipes: why not? They discover new favorites.
They plant basil seeds in egg cartons on the sun porch; the seeds sprout and thrive and then two desperately hot days cook their sad little stems. She goes out and buys established plants–basil and rosemary. They put them in the kitchen sink garden outside the kitchen door. Why not, he says, dump that good dirt from the egg cartons into the sink?
Great idea, she agrees, and sprinkles the rich black soil around the herbs.
Within days, he notices little seedlings sprouting. Something tells them to let those little plants be, and the seedlings get bigger and stronger. She spicks a leaf off, rubs it between finger and thumb, sniffs. Basil! All the seeds they’d thought were dead come happily back to life in the rich moist dirt, the friendly sun, protected in the ell of the house from wind and storm.
Their spaghetti sauce tastes like the sun, with fresh basil and rosemary, tomatoes picked that morning at the farm down the way. It’s summer, and the time and the possibilities–even healthy plants growing from zapped seeds–seem endless.
Wendy comes to take the guest room for its maiden flight; she deems it a cozy place to sleep and read. They take her, all three of them, on a lazy ride down the river on the paddlewheeler Lorena. Fanned on the upper deck by river breezes, they hungrily dig into a light and lovely lettuce salad, and they fork up prime rib that cuts like butter as they chug smoothly north for an hour. They lazily eat chocolate peanut butter pie and drink hot black coffee as the Lorena turns to head home. Children run along the riverbanks, yelling and following them. Big tough tattooed men lean out of party barges to pump their arms in the ageless signal children send to semi drivers: HONK! PLease HONK!
The captain, a quiet, white-haired gentleman in a nautical cap, grins and obliges, pulling the long loud honking foghorn over and over. Women, waving the hands that don’t hold clinking drinks, lounge in canvas chairs carried to the water’s edge. A storm threatens, but, of course, does not materialize. It is summer, and threats subside.
Some days she walks early and late. She loves to walk by a neighbor’s gaudy flowering shrub. Its blossoms are bigger than dessert plates, pleated and pretty with clear true colors, full and grinning in the early morning sun.
At night, the flowers curl in on themselves, as if exhausted by their boisterous, flamboyant display. They look, he says, like hand-rolled cigars.
They walk through the Gardens around the corner; they marvel at the lily pads with their waxy blooms, exuberant in the pond where the waterfall plashes.
Some Sunday nights, a loosely woven orchestra plays in the bandshell; the group struggles gamely with complicated compositions but comes out strong with John Phillip Sousa. They clap and stamp along with the crowd, a range-y crowd with children zipping in dizzyingly circles, elders whose worn and spotted hands beat time on the metal arms of their folding lawn chairs, a cluster of black clad young people, whose cool is betrayed by feet that can’t help tapping. They people-watch and imagine unconventional matches–the crisp-cut young man, the languid and pretty young Goth. Why not? They’d be good for each other, maybe, they agree, and it’s summer, after all–a time for taking chances. It’s a time when it’s possible the chances will bear fruit.
But there is the chance too of the evening phone call: Are you sitting down? says the well-loved voice on the other end,–or, Call me as soon as you get this, urges the message. These events, too, sneak into summer possibles–the ones that throw them heavily onto the bench, trying hard not to believe the messenger.
But he wasn’t SICK, he says. He was planning a visit in two weeks.
No, she argues, he was too young.
They sit outside as the sky darkens; the birds get raucous, then grow quiet. All kinds of things, they accept sadly, are possible.
They remember by planting trees that stretch skyward and strengthen; flowers burgeon and tales of life and seasons play out in front of them. It is a time, for them, of growth and joy, but they know,–they have the sorrowful evidence–that the pedal always turns.
They get ready for a visit from their beautiful young granddaughter, standing on the brink of so many possibilities. Her gentle hands will welcome sassy Max, the neighborhood cat, settle the antsy dog into summer slumbers. They will go to the Zoo; they will tour the Wilds. They’ll have wonderful meals and long walks and conversations of re-discovery.
Summer rolls up its hill, hovers for a moment at the peak, and begins to descend. There is more glamor and flash ahead, but mothers are beginning to dream of children back in school. The ads come out–tablets for a quarter, folders for a dime. The first leaves on the spring-flowering tree by the kitchen window turn vividly red and flutter.
On Saturday nights, they fall asleep to the strident voice and the insistent bass of the band that plays at the bar down by the river; the chorus of young voices rise and eddy. It is summer yet, summer with its promise and its insistent push–you dare not rest; you must keep moving. The journey is often joyful and sometimes culls forth a wrenching loss.
They will sit outside and light a fire, sipping drinks and talking softly; they will welcome visitors to that pretty little room. They have, now, years enough on the planet to know not to fight time and flail against fate; summer will wane, and autumn will blazen. They will cosset their joys and remember their losses, and even in the midst of hard-earned wisdom, feel that little leap, that firm little flicker.
It is summer; they know what they know. Yet somehow, anyway, in the cool quiet of the night, in the friendly flicker of the fire, they still believe it’s true: anything could be possible.