By middle August came the chill. The nights, which previously held a blessed respite from the torrid days, now snapped cold. Your mom dug deep into the closet, behind the broken lawn chairs, to pull out the reliable old bungalow heater. The heaters were of two varieties, really. There were the kerosene heaters, of which I hold little memory; then there was the electric coiled type. This heater was plugged in and soon tightly wrapped coils glowed red, like the inside workings of a giant toaster. These heaters, not much bigger than a small TV, gave off a surprising amount of warmth. But your mom wasn’t satisfied. She proceeded to ignite all four of the stovetop burners, and on very frigid nights, the oven, too, with it’s door swung open. The bungalow retained a small hint of gas, but it was warm, and toasty, as you came in from a fierce game of ring-a-leevio, or tag, the night air icy in your chest, to sit at the linoleum kitchen table and devour hot chocolate and a sleeve of Oreos.
If the dawn of August marked summers mid-point, then midway through August began the deathwatch. The vacation rapidly diminished, and you began counting off the days on your fingers. The evening cold now invaded the days. You dressed in sweatshirts and jeans, your tees and shorts abandoned in the drawer, or worse, sent home with your dad in the first or second shipment of “cleaning out” for summer’s end. You found yourself walking by the deserted swimming pool with longing in your eyes, hoping against hope for a late summer heat wave that would convince your mom it was swimming weather again. You noticed that when the air moved through the trees, the leaves would not only rustle and bend in the breeze, but that many would begin their slow descent to the ground. Around the perimeter of the colony you could distinguish small touches of yellow and red and bronze on the branches. The small stand of apple trees near the play area had birthed an avalanche of apples–small, green and sour. They were great for war games, but hell to eat.
Your letter writing to home began to slacken off. You’d see them all soon enough. You began to cling ever closer to your summer friends, forging bonds you believed were sacrosanct, decreed to survive a long ten-month winter. Day camp wound down, as the camp play loomed a week away, to be followed by the prom. Then, invariably, came the last hurrah–the final week of summer, no camp, no supervision, all freedom for play as your mom hurried against the clock to complete packing up the bungalow.
You hated seeing the bungalow that final week. When you entered the kitchen and discovered mom had removed the “good” cover from the high-riser, replacing it with the “winter spread”, you knew it was as good as over. Slowly, but inexorably, your summer dream was being dismantled. Just days to go and so much to do.
You didn’t know, couldn’t know, how quickly the ensuing ten months would leave the calendar, and that in an eye’s blink you’d be back there again, in June, the trees verdant and the days long and warm and the promise of the summer lush and alive. All you knew was that it had gone too fast, had fled like a thief in the night, leaving a long winter to stand before the return. Foolish, how we pushed the days away to get back to those fleeting ten weeks. If only all our days had been like summer. But then, if so, would they have held such magic and wonder?