goodbye summer 2004

I was jolted this morning even before I'd gotten any coffee into my system when the girl behind the counter where I like to get my morning cup asked me if I'd "had a good summer." Had? I've been talking end-of-summer-blues with the best of them, but this question brought the fact down hard, like a blaring alarm clock at the crack of dawn when you've only put in three hours of sleep. It's the end of August. The autumnal equinox technically doesn't arrive until September 22, but we all know the telltale signs indicating that our carefree North Carolina summer is receding into memory. The students are back on Franklin Street. My sense of duty is dancing front and center in my line of vision. No more carefree whims! No more bouts of lying out in the sun as though that was a legitimate activity! Summer parties, rejoicing in the final days of this great season, become poignant almost before they are over.

Just this past weekend I traveled north to DC to attend such a party, as well as get together with a bunch of high school, college and other friends who happened to be in town. I threw my light summer clothes into a backpack hastily. A pair of jeans, flip flops, a bathing suit - hair is tangly at times, can be thrown back after swimming and drying slowly in the sun or late night heat under a bright moon. The possibility of weather changing suddenly is not a worry. It's summer and it's hot.

The weekend was a monument to summer qualities. Planned meet-ups felt serendipitous in the way they were played out. Old friends connected for another night of skinny-dipping at my parent's house, wine-bottles littering the poolside, towels and clothes damp and unnecessary. Even now in our mid-twenties, the joy of letting go still as exciting as when we were teenagers jumping in for the first time.

I woke in a daze the next day, ready to meet others in Georgetown for a celebration prior to the party that night. The dense day released a downpour upon us as we walked, laughing, and after getting soaked enough - not caring anymore. The party was a mix of small-time adventures and heartfelt talks, had out on the curb or on the way to falling asleep. Guitars played well-known tunes. Friends sat at fold-up tables and stood in the grass barefoot. The summer heat did give way, after the rain, to a cooler evening, a foreshadowing and symbolic end to the season, a real end to the classic summer party when the last of us drifted off.

The weekend ended and I am starting a new week with the complete realization that the summer of 2004 is soon ending. When in school, the end of the summer signifies the end of vacation. In the working world, I found after graduating, you have no such luck. Vacations are made, not given just because it is sunny out. But the feel of the season is penetrating even when riding to the office on a Monday morning. We've been enjoying ourselves, and that is the way it should be.

The days will become more compact with less time to fit all desired activities in. I've been taking my dog Cecilia to the creek to splash in the water. Bugs are lazily swatted away as we sway through the humidity, me in shorts and flip-flops, and she panting, looking for friends. Soon there will be leaves underneath our feet. There will be sweatshirts. The water will be colder. We'll look more neat. We will be more reserved.

To tell the truth, fall is my favorite season for it's weather and aesthetics. I enjoy the need to bundle up once the summer heat fades. I love coming in from the cold, the need to become warm so snugly met by a blanket, a fireplace, some tea and a loved one.

But I still grieve for the loss of yet another summer. While not a serious issue, the final days of summer often bring to mind a list of things I haven't done and the need to get going on them. Whether it is the practical need to vacuum the seats of my car, or something more personal, the summer seems a good time to not worry about a damn thing. And not surprisingly, in that realm of stress-free goodness, wonderful things do happen, as made clear by the memories already forming of this summer now coming to an end.

And so in response to the question, "have you had a good summer?" I answer yes. Of course I'm amazed at how fast it has flown, and sad at its departure. But it's done it's job. And I'm ready for something new.